Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You'll Never Know Unless You Try........Frogs' Legs!!

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear "frogs' legs"? French food right? Frogs' legs are a very traditional, not to mention stereotypical, example of French cuisine. But they're also very commonly found in Southern cuisine in the US. I find this ironic since many, many folks I have encountered over the years while living in the south have said, and I quote, "I won't get within 5 feet of any of that French food you're always talking about". The back story to this is that a GREAT French Brasserie called Can Can Brasserie opened in Richmond, VA a few years back and I simply would not stop talking about it. I was basically free walking advertisement for this place. The food was fantastic. The atmosphere was like walking into a sidewalk cafe in Paris. It was a great addition to the town...and I wouldn't shut up about it. It was a huge success too. I think most of the Richmond Foodies embraced it with open arms but I did run into a few folks that wouldn't even think of eating anything "French". This brings me back to the frogs' legs. I used to buy these puppies by the bag full at a seafood shack in the middle of nowhere Virginia. They were about as local AND as traditionally southern as it got. It still makes me laugh to think that some people just don't get that food is universal. The French eat liver pate'. Southerners in the US eat liver scrapple. The French cook their frogs' legs in butter and garlic. The southerners in the US love them some deep fried food so they throw those puppies in some seasoned flour and drop them in the fry-daddy. The list could go on and on. So take my advice and open your minds...and your mouths...and give frogs' legs a chance...because you know what they say..."You'll never know unless you try".

Ready to cook these guys but can't find them? First ask your fish monger. 90% of the time the frogs' legs are frozen and you might be looking for them in the wrong place. Philly residents can find them at John Yi Fish Market in the Reading Terminal Market. My Richmond friends can find them at B & B Seafood (3312 Williamsburg Rd, Richmond) out past where Nick and I used to live. I know...it's drive...but a nice one and worth it for the frogs' legs!

Don't know what to expect in terms of taste? Lots and lots of people say they taste like chicken. I think these people just like saying, "it tastes like chicken". Honestly, I would say that frogs' legs taste like the love child of a mild white fish and a Cornish Game Hen. The texture is very tender, almost fall of the bone tender and I think the meat lends itself more towards fish than poultry but in a good way. There is a slight hint of salt in the meat as well which add the most lovely flavor. You'll like it...I promose.

Got your frogs' legs? Got your game face on? Ready to try something new? Use this recipe. It's a perfect way to ease yourself into these culinary delights.
Southern Fried Frogs' Legs with Sweet Corn Relish

2 or more sets of legs per person
2 eggs (beaten with a tbs. of water)
2 cups of flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. onion powder
Canola, peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Heat the oil in a deep skillet or a small fry-daddy to 350 degrees. The oil should be deep enough to allow the legs to be completely submerged. Mix the flour, salt, cayenne and onion powder together in a large bowl. Throw the legs in the flour mixture and lightly coat (knock off any excess flour). Now dip the coated legs in the egg mixture, then back into the flour mixture. Fry the legs a few at a time (be careful as to not overcrowd the pot...this could bring the oil temperature down and you'll get soggy legs, not crispy ones). They should only take 3-5 mins to fry. Pull them when they're a golden brown and place them on a wire rack to drain.

Serve them over this Sweet Corn Relish:

2 ears of corn
1 turnip
1 medium onion (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
1 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium low heat. Peel and chop the turnip into a small dice (a bit larger than the corn kernels). Cut the corn off the ears. Throw the turnips, corn, onion and garlic into the pan with the butter and oil and cook low and slow for about 20 mins. If the pan gets dry add a splash of water. You want the veggies to sweat, not really saute. When the turnips are tender add the heavy cream and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle this Sweet Corn Mayo over the frogs' legs (I think this mayo MAKES the dish):

3 tbs. store bought mayo
1/3 cup of the cooked sweet corn relish from above
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (maybe a bit less if you don't like it HOT)

Take the cooked relish and throw it in a food processor or blender with a touch of water or chicken stock if you have some. Just enough moisture to let it blend. Once it's pureed transfer the mixture to a fine sieve and strain just the juice out. Discard the pulp. Mix the juice with the mayo and cayenne pepper. Now for the fun part. Spoon the mayo into a zip lock type bag and squeeze the mixture into one corner. Now using scissors cut the tip off the corner of the bag. Make a very small cut. Now pipe the mayo out of the bag and onto the hot frogs legs in thin ribbons. Pretty AND delicious!

Now get out there and make some frogs' legs folks! And let us all know how you liked them!
Read more

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bibou BYOB...Quite a mouth full...But a delicious one.

Sometimes I walk into a restaurant and think, "This is what MY restaurant would look like if I had one". A few weeks ago when my husband and I walked into the new, "hot right now" restaurant Bibou, I thought just that.
We stepped out of our cab on South 8th street, looked at each other and said in unison, "This can't be right". Bibou was, and still is, one of the hot new restaurants in Philly and we were standing in a residential neighborhood near Washington Ave...and not a very nice neighborhood at that (we read that it was near the Italian Market, but apparently it wasn't quite as close as we had imagined). But like I always say...good things come in unassuming packages so we waved the cab goodbye and looked around for the restaurant. When we finally spotted the small, tasteful sign on the front of Bibou and walked inside we realized that we were a bit ashamed that we were so quick to judge the location. The interior was warm and cozy. It was a typical row-house-turned-restaurant. It was simply decorated (I actually recognized a few pieces from Ikea) and approachable. A decor like that is always a sign to me that the chef is focused on one thing and pretty much one thing only...the food. Speaking of the chef...

I think the reason this small, out of the way French restaurant was such a big deal at opening is because of the chef. Bibou's chef and owner, Pierre Calmels, opened Bibou after leaving arguably the best (and unfortunately most expensive) French restaurant in Philadelphia, Le Bec-Fin. He had a lot to live up to by "breaking up with the band" and heading out to work on his solo career. I'm pleased to say that it looks like his solo career has success written all over it.

The hubby and I perused the menu online before we left for dinner that evening (as we always do...I think reading menus is almost as entertaining as a good novel...don't judge me). We walked in knowing what we wanted. We would fight over sharing the foie gras or escargots appetizer (in the end the waiter told us that the foie was small and that we should just order both...he lied...it was a lovely size but in the end I'm happy he did). Then the hubby would have the foie stuffed pig's foot, and I, the veal with crispy sweetbreads. I LOVE sweetbreads...AKA, the thymus gland. Gland-o-rific! The prices were what we expected, on average about $25 per plate. And I think that if you're heading to a place that lets you bring your own booze and serves you food this good, $25 per plate is a downright steal.

Now...the food! Starters first:
The foie gras was seared to perfection, of great quality and it came with a lovely dessert bread. I love it when chefs pair foie with something sweet...maple syrup, french toast...foie gras has a sweet tooth in my opinion that just can't be satisfied.

The escargots (my pick...love me some snails) was even more amazing. The hubby disagrees, but I'm writing the blog so I say it was better. Why such strong feelings on the escargots you ask? Well, I loved it for a few reasons. Reason number one: You could actually taste the snails. I can't tell you how many times I've ordered escargots and it's been drowned in garlic and cooked all to hell. They were served as a ragout with fava beans, mushrooms and tarragon. I'm sure there was a bit of garlic in there but not enough to repel vampires. Reason number two: The textural difference between the firm fava beans and the tender escargots was a home run. I think people shy away from snails because of the texture, but this preparation could turn a meat and potato guy into a beret wearing, wine drinking, snail loving foodie. Reason number three: It was served on a snail shaped plate and it was beautiful. Who wouldn't love that presentation!!!???

For the entrees the hubby won, hands down. He ordered what I'm sure is the house specialty, the foie gras stuffed pigs foot. I know what you're thinking. Don't pigs have hooves? How do you stuff a hoof? Well my friends...you don't. Instead you take the hoof out, retain the skin and fat that covered the hoof...then stuff it with foie gras. Serve it over some of the best lentils you've ever eaten and you get.....ta-da! Foie gras stuffed pig's foot. If you're on a diet, please don't order this. I'm sure the fat content alone is enough to send shooting pains down your left arm, but I'm sure it's worth it. The rich foie actually melts into the pigs foot and flavors the fat inside. When you cut it open you get this fatty amalgamation packed with flavor. I was told by the waiter that some people have a bit of "trouble with the consistency" of the pig's foot and he recommended stirring that fatty amalgamation into the lentils. The hubby had no such problem but stirred some in just for fun. He was in heaven folks.

I ordered my entree for the sweetbreads. The veal medallion that accompanied it was extra in my mind. Unfortunately, and I hate to tell a French born and trained chef how to cook, but I think my veal medallion was overcooked. Maybe it was a cut I've never had before and was in fact supposed to be cooked that way but I can't say for sure. I told the waiter to please cook the veal "as the chef would" which usually gets me good points with the chef AND gets me the most wonderfully cooked meat imaginable. Apparently, though, I think Chef Pierre likes his veal overcooked. But not to worry folks. It was served with a delectable sunchoke sauce (plate-licking-good sauce) and like I said...the medallion was the icing on the cake. I was there for the sweetbreads and they were amazing!!! I ate them as slow as I could and let each piece fall apart on my tongue. Are there any sweetbread virgins out there? If so you MUST try them. These were crispy on the outside and pure butter on the inside. The flavor is mild and a bit gamy...you'll taste a hint of that "organ-meat" flavor but that's what makes them so delicious! And if you're looking for a place that does them right, look no further than Bibou.

Stuffed with foie gras, escargots, pigs feat and sweetbreads...not to mention a a half baguette of delicious French bread smothered in imported French butter (Pierre bakes his own bread and butchers all of his own meat...like all real men should) we opted out of dessert. We him and hawed about it but in the end we decided to walk our way back towards Old City, pleasant tastes still lingering on our tongues. As we paid the bill, pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the prices were considering we were pretty much transported to France for the evening, the hubby looked into his wallet and said, "We have enough left over to hit a few bars on the walk home". An amazing food journey that leaves you with enough cash for a night cap!? Now I see what all the fuss is about.

**I recommend reservations**
1009 S. 8th Street
Philadelphia PA 19147

Bibou on Urbanspoon
Read more

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Hi all! Don't feel like reading and just want to browse some pictures? Check out the slide show of our latest (just last week) trip to California (left side of the page). It starts with Venice Beach and Santa Monica then moves on to Beverly Hills, Hollywood, the Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and then finally Sonoma and some areas north of San Francisco. It was quite the trip! I'm sure you will notice some familiar sights and some not so familiar, but don't worry, I'll fill you in on all of the hits, misses, sights and sounds...coming soon!
Read more

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Drink Of The Month...Fig Vodka Anyone????

Isn't it funny how food can be either "in" or "out"? Like the latest fall fashions, food can be as "last year" as that pair of gigantic white plastic sunglasses (I honestly don't get fashion so forgive me if you like those) or perhaps that fedora you purchased because all the hipsters were wearing it but you failed to realize that it comes with an age limit....under 35 please. It saddens me that food can sometimes fit into this category, but what saddens me even more is that one particular food...or drink in this case...has been completely left off the "hip radar". Feigling; Fig Flavored Vodka
Yes!! Fig flavored vodka!! Figs are as in right now as, say, roasted beet and goat cheese salad (have you gone to a restaurant in the past year and not seen this salad listed on the menu?). Figs go with meat, cheese, vodka! They're delicious and versatile. They're everywhere! Unfortunately, one of my favorite liquors of all time, Feigling, a German made beverage, is nowhere to be seen. We have to change this folks. Help me!!

A few years ago. Ok. Perhaps more like 6 or 7 (time flies huh folks). Friends of mine, Mark and Di, gave me a bottle of my beloved Feigling. Actually, at the time they gave me a box of little airplane bottles (this particular liquor is often sold this way), and I fell in love. The hubby and I must have drank 3 bottles of it while we were in Germany a few years ago. It's that good. I know what you're thinking. "Why would I EVER drink fig flavored vodka". My answer to that is, "why not?". It's delicious. A mix between the ever popular line of citrus flavored vodkas out there and a schnapps. I drink it straight as a shot or an after dinner drink (move over sambuca)...that is...if I can find it. Herein lies the problem. You can't find the stuff anywhere!!! Mark and Di brought it back from Germany...because they used to live there. If you're a normal joe shmoe in small town America you might have a hard time finding it. So when the hubby and I were in Northern California (lots of posts on CA to come...we pretty much covered the state in 8 days) last week and I spotted a store that I knew sold it online I practically pulled the parking break in an attempt to stop the car and see if they had it in stock. Good for me....and the hubby that I didn't actually pull the parking break going 55 mph...they had it!!!! I ran into the store and filled my arms with bottles of the stuff. My level headed husband reminded me that the airlines only allow you to check 50lbs worth of baggage and that I, in all of my excitement, must have been balancing about 75 lbs worth of fig flavored wonder in my arms. Saddened by that fact I purchased one measly bottle.

When I brought it home, in an effort to conserve, I made a mixed drink out of it. It's a variation on the recipe off the back of the bottle called Orange Crush...I call mine heaven. It's one of the best mixed drinks I've ever had...and I don't particularly like sweet, mixed drinks...put an ice cube in something and I consider that an ingredient. So give this drink a shot. Please. And ask your local liquor or ABC store to special order a few cases of Feigling (most places can and will do that). You won't be disappointed...I promise! And if you can't get your local liquor store to do you that solid then go here..... www.bevmo.com
By law they can't sell to certain states...VA, PA (mom and dad...keep an eye out for a case of Feigling coming to your NJ house!) but most other states will let you ship liquor. BevMo is where I bought this bottle and I can tell you right now...you'll be sorry if you don't give it a shot. Perhaps make it your very own, Drink of the Month.

Orange Crush...aka, heaven in a glass:
-2 parts Feigling
-1 part Orange Juice
-1/2 part orange liquor
-splash club soda

Mix Feigling, OJ, orange liquor and a splash of club soda in a shaker. Mix lightly and pour into an ice filled highball glass. Enjoy!
Read more