Archive for April, 2013

Clare and Carl’s – Plattsburgh, NY

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by virginia

Our drive to Canada wouldn’t have been an official road trip without first consulting one of my favorite resources, There weren’t too many options on I-87 before we crossed the border so I ended up researching a few places in Plattsburgh, the last “big” city we would pass through in NY. The regional food of choice there is the Michigan, a hot dog covered in chili.

We planned to leave our house early enough to get to Plattsburgh for a late lunch. An unexpected detour through Schenectady slowed us down a bit (we missed a turn somewhere in Albany and ended up getting on I-90 by accident) so we were hoping to make a quick pit stop at Clare and Carl’s roadside stand for some hot dogs before continuing on our way.

As we entered Plattsburgh, I did a quick search on Josh’s iphone for the address and came up with 2 Dock Street. The GPS directed us to a spot right on the shores of Lake Champlain. However, we didn’t see any hot dog stands nearby. Baby J was starting to fuss so I fed her while Josh got out of the car to investigate. He found an old abandoned and condemned building that had Clare and Carl’s signage nearby in the parking lot, but we were clearly at the wrong place. I re-googled the correct address, and fortunately, we weren’t so far out of the way.

It was gorgeous outside, sunny and warm, so we took a few photos by the lake before heading off. We finally found the right spot, and it was exactly what I was expecting – a nondescript building full of character on the inside.


Clare and Carl’s in Plattsburgh, NY

It reminded me of White Manna, our favorite spot for sliders. There was a long u-shaped counter, the menu on a board on the wall, and lots of old signs with humorous statements.


The menu board

We sat at the counter and placed our order, although there were a lot of people eating in their cars outside. We each got a Michigan, and we decided to share an order of french fries and onion rings. I was a bit worried about getting chili all over myself, but the Michigan was pretty delicious despite the messiness. The chili was meaty, well seasoned, hot, and had a little bit of a kick to it. We ordered it with onions on top, though the waitress said her preference is to have them buried under the chili. The bun was pretty generic, but the hot dog itself was a little disappointing – a bit mushy with no snap. It kind of got lost under all that delicious chili.

The Michigan - a chili covered hot dog with onions on top

The Michigan – a chili covered hot dog

The fries and onion rings were pretty standard, though well fried. They were piping hot and crispy, and the onion rings were made with real onions, not some sort of fake composite.

French fries

French fries

Onion rings

Onion rings

Overall I was really glad we stopped at Clare and Carl’s. It’s exactly what I think of when I think about road food. It was definitely a “local” place, as the waitress knew almost everyone who walked in the door by name. There was a lot of teasing and good-natured ribbing going on, and the food was pretty good. Was it the best chili hot dog I’ve ever had? Probably not. The chili was great but the hot dog was a bit lacking. But it was quick, cheap, satisfying, and an enjoyable experience.

Clare and Carl’s
4729 NY-9
Plattsburgh, NY

Two Fat Bellies Hit the Road – Canadian Adventure

Sunday, April 21st, 2013 by virginia

Josh and I were experiencing a bout of cabin fever and decided to take a somewhat impromptu road trip to Canada for a long weekend in April, with baby J in tow. She has always been pretty good in the car, usually falling asleep immediately, but we didn’t have much experience driving long distances with her. We also hadn’t been away for a weekend just the three of us before, so we were a bit worried about having to pack up all of her stuff and managing everything on our own for four days.

Since half the fun of traveling is eating well, we decided to go to Quebec City and Montreal for a little sightseeing and a lot of good French-influenced food. While Google maps told us that Quebec City would be a 7.5 hour drive, it ended up taking us almost 10 hours altogether, since we had to make a few stops along the way to feed the baby. Other than that, it was a pretty nice drive through the Adirondack region.

We spent two nights in Quebec City, staying at the Loews Hotel Le Concorde, for which we got a great deal on Priceline. It was in a good location just outside the Old City, and we had beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River from our room. We spent one night at Le Meridian Versailles in Montreal, a boutique hotel that was a bit off the beaten path but still near the hustle and bustle of Crescent Street. The downside was that the room was a bit small, and space was extremely tight especially since we had to set up a pack n’ play next to our bed for J to sleep in.

All in all it was a great trip, one that we would happily do again. It snowed on our way to Quebec City but fortunately it was not too cold during the day, and we we were able to maneuver the steep hills of city fairly easily with J’s City Mini GT stroller. The stroller was also pretty good on the residual snow that we encountered, and we powered our way through the slush and mud. We had several really wonderful meals, and we were pretty proud of ourselves (and her!) for getting through the four-day weekend with only one major meltdown at a restaurant. Our little Canadian experiment proved that we could handle traveling with J on our own, and we’re already looking forward to planning our next adventure.

Fun with Foie Gras

Friday, April 12th, 2013 by virginia

This past Valentine’s Day, Josh and I celebrated the 15th anniversary of our first date. Unfortunately, with a four and a half month old baby and both of us working full time, we really didn’t have much time to celebrate properly on the actual day, since it was a Thursday.

The night before Valentine’s Day, however, we were watching the latest episode of Top Chef, where one of the cheftestants, Josh, made foie gras three ways. As we watched him break down a lobe of foie gras on tv, I commented to my Josh that I would love to have my own lobe of foie gras to play with. The next day, he promptly ordered an entire lobe of foie gras from D’Artagnan for me. Definitely a unique anniversary present, but so fitting for us!

The following Saturday was the first weekend in months that we had no plans so we hit up the local Fairway for some ingredients and sequestered ourselves in our house, devoting the full afternoon to preparing our feast. On the menu: seared foie gras with balsamic glaze served with crostini, rack of lamb with shaved brussels sprout salad and mushroom spaeztle on the side, and creme brulee for dessert.

Josh had prepped the foie gras when it was delivered to our house in the previous week. Since it was a grade ‘A’ lobe, there wasn’t much cleaning involved. He sliced it into half inch thick slabs and we vacuum sealed them in two-person portions, then popped them into the freezer. I was sad that we weren’t able to eat any fresh out of the package, but we figured this was the best way to preserve the integrity of the foie gras. We were able to get six good-sized slices and a few end pieces out of the lobe. In anticipation of our meal, I defrosted one of the sealed bags overnight in our refrigerator.

To cook the foie gras, Josh added a bit of vegetable oil in the pan and scored one side of each slice with a cross hatch pattern, like you would do with the skin of a duck before cooking. It doesn’t really do anything to the foie gras, but makes for a pretty pattern after cooking, and more seared bits on the outside. He also liberally sprinkled both sides of each slice with kosher salt. Once the pan was super hot, almost to the point of smoking, he laid the slices in the oil, counted 45 seconds out loud, and then immediately flipped them over. He cooked the second side for another 45 seconds, and voila, they were done. We put them on paper towels for a minute to rest and soak up some of the grease.

It was a mistake for Josh to put oil in the pan prior to searing, as the foie gras produced enough fat on its own. He ended up having to pour off a lot of the oil/fat (we tried to save it to use later on in the week, but we got busy again and didn’t have a chance to cook with it. Next time.), and then he deglazed the pan with some aged balsamic vinegar to make a syrupy sauce that we ended up pouring over the foie gras. He served the seared slices on top of some crostini that we toasted with olive oil, and the result was pretty fantastic.

Seared foie gras on top of crostini

Seared foie gras on top of crostini

We paired the foie gras with sauternes, which is pretty classic. We bought a half bottle of the 2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes, which was sweet but not cloying, fruity, and slightly floral. On it’s own, it was a delicious dessert wine. However, I hated the pairing with the foie gras. After drinking the wine and eating some of the foie gras, I thought that it brought out the irony, sour notes of the liver. After eating the foie gras and drinking some of the wine, I thought it made the sauternes taste a bit harsh and acidic. While each was wonderful on its own, together, I thought it was a pretty horrible pairing. I’m not sure if it was just me, as Josh didn’t seem to mind that much, or if we picked the wrong bottle of wine, or what. It wasn’t a cheap bottle – about $40 for 375 ml, and it had received a 94 from Wine Spectator. I was disappointed, and wound up saving the rest of my glass for our dessert course, which turned out to be a better option.


2009 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes

For our main course, Josh prepared the rack of lamb by marinating it in olive oil with garlic and rosemary. Then he cooked it sous vide in our Sous Vide Supreme at 55 degrees celsius for about two hours. Afterward, he seared it quickly to develop a crust on the outside, and made a pan sauce with cognac, mustard, and chicken stock.

I was in charge of the side dishes. I took about a pound of beautiful bright green brussels sprouts and sliced them as thinly as possible. I could have shaved them using a mandolin, but I was too lazy to bust out and have to clean extra equipment. We tossed the brussels sprouts with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard.

I was inspired to make spaetzle based on a dish we had in Bratislava a year and a half ago – roasted pork tenderloin with spaetzle covered in a porcini cream sauce. I’ve never made spaetzle before and used the easiest recipe I could find, which was from allrecipes. I cut back on the nutmeg though, which is a personal preference (I really don’t enjoy nutmeg). We don’t have a spaetzle maker so I used the biggest holes on a box grater, pushing the dough through with a silicon spatula. It worked surprisingly well, and the result was chewy nubs of jaggedy spaetzle. For the sauce, I sliced cremini mushrooms and browned them in olive oil until they were soft and cooked down. Then I used the food processor to chop them into tiny pieces, put them back into the pan, and added heavy cream, salt, and truffle oil and cooked it through until the sauce was rich and creamy, but that the mushrooms were still distinguishable. I was incredibly pleased with how the dish turned out. The combination of the meaty lamb, the rich spaetzle, and the bright, slightly bitter brussels sprout salad, was just perfect.

Sous vide rack of lamb, shaved brussels sprouts salad, spaetzle with mushroom cream sauce

Sous vide rack of lamb, shaved brussels sprouts salad, spaetzle with mushroom cream sauce

Josh was in charge of dessert and made creme brulee upon my request. He uses the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipe cookbook, and uses real vanilla beans. The custard is velvety and smooth, not too sweet, and the sugar crust on top is hard to beat. I have to admit that I usually lick out the ramekins to get every last bit and all the little vanilla bean seeds that stick behind.


We still have several portions of foie gras left in the freezer, and I’m not sure what I want to do with them. Searing is quick, easy, and delicious though, so we really can’t go wrong doing that again. Maybe we’ll play around with the toppings – port wine, stone fruits, there are tons of recipes online. I’ll also have to see what we can do with the end pieces; maybe we could make something more creative with those. I just don’t want to experiment on the nice slices that we have, in case something goes awry.

All in all, even though we didn’t go anywhere exciting or try any new restaurants for our anniversary, we ended up doing what we love most – cooking, savoring the fruits of our labors, drinking nice wines, and simply enjoying being together.