Archive for the 'Basil Pizza & Wine Bar' Category

29
Dec
11

Napoleon – Gâteau de Mille-Feuilles


I never outgrew my sweet tooth, though there are some pastries which I prefer above all others. Given a choice, I’ll take a Napoleon over almost anything else. In Australia and England they call it vanilla slice, in Italy mille foglie, in Argentina milhojas, in Canada it is gâteaux Napoléon or Napoleon cake, in Poland it’s known as napoleonka, whatever the name and slight variations, I’m addicted to this pastry.

About a year ago, I sampled an incredible variant of a Napoleon, not only did it not look like the traditional version sold in your local bakery, but its flavor was far better than anything I tasted before. Chef Ehud Ezra, Pastry Chef at Basil Pizza and Wine Bar would not divulge his recipe, so it took me a while to come up with one that would be similar to what I had at the restaurant. While looking for a version that somewhat resembled the one that so inspired me, I came up with some bits of food history that I found fascinating. A few details follow:

In 1651, François Pierre La Varenne described a version in his Le Cuisinier François. This was later improved by Marie-Antoine Carême, who – writing in the early part of the 19th century – described Milles-Feuilles as pastry of ancient origin. The Larousse Gastronomique refers to it as Gâteau Napolitain (Neapolitan Cake), after the Italian city of Napoli rather than after the French emperor.

Chef Udi's original Napoléon...

I could never fully duplicate Chef Udi‘s recipe but here’s my approximation:

On Leah Cooks Kosher I found this recipe for the cream which I adapted by reducing the gelatin about 1/4 teaspoon her original called for:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Dissolve the gelatin in the water. Set aside.
  2. Whip the heavy cream until is starts to thicken. Slowly add the sugar and beat the cream until it is stiff. We don’t want it too soft but we don’t want it to curdle.
  3. Add the gelatin mixture and beat until combined. Chill for 30 minutes before using.

You can buy frozen puff pastry or, if you are adventurous, make your own; it will certainly taste better!

Puff Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (or margarine, for pareve dough), frozen
  • 5-6 tablespoons ice water

Directions

  1. Whisk four and salt in a chilled large metal bowl. Set a grater in flour mixture and coarsely grate frozen margarine into flour, gently lifting flour and tossing to coat butter.
  2. Drizzle 5 tablespoons of ice water evenly over flour mixture and stir gently with a fork until incorporated. Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful; the dough will not crumble if it has the proper texture. Add another tablespoon if needed stirring until fully incorporated and test again. Remember that if you overwork the dough or add too much water it will be tough.
  3. Form the dough into a 5″ square. It will be lumpy and streaky. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic until firm.
  4. Roll out on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, into a 15 by 8 inch rectangle. Position dough with a shorter side facing you, fold into thirds (like a brochure): bottom third over center, top down over dough. Rewrap and refrigerate until firm, about another 30 minutes approximately.
  5. Position dough with a short side facing you again, on a well floured surface and roll out again folding and refrigerating two more times. Brush off excess flour wrap again in plastic and refrigerate for an hour and half or longer.

For the Napoleon, thaw the dough (whether your own or store bought) for 30 minutes and cut into 4 fairly equal squares; use a toothpick to make about 3 pricks on each. Preheat oven to 400 F, lower to 350 F and bake the squares on a cookie sheet for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Take out, let pastry cool completely and spoon the cream over the first and cover with a second square, spoon cream over it and cover with a third square spooning the cream again. Top it with the fourth piece and sprinkle it with lots of confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!

CS

15
Nov
10

Pardes Restaurant


Pardes Restaurant‘s Chef/Owner, Moshe Wendel, opened this new eatery on October the 24th (497 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217; Tel: 718.797.3880), barely three weeks ago. Chef Moshe’s culinary talents and passion for food, along with the friendly enthusiasm of his tight-knit staff result in a successful venture. Through the years, he carefully and methodically honed his skills. Starting out as a dishwasher at age 16, he climbed through the ranks through various prestigious establishments such as Philadelphia’s celebrated Django restaurant. Moshe and his wife Shana became ba’alei tshuvah, and rushed back east to cook for Mosaica and Mike’s Bistro. He opened Basil as Executive Chef, stayed there for a short while, and is now fulfilling his own dream of owning a top kosher restaurant.

Small, warm, very welcoming

Moshe had a clear vision for Pardes. Located in an area filled with art galleries, bookstores, fashion shops and assorted eateries featuring every kind of cuisine, Pardes became an extension of the chic, upscale, urban cool mix. My companion (SYR could not make it this time) and I got there at around 3:00pm,  Lunch to Dinner transition time…

I ordered the Home Made Bouquerones [house cured white anchovies], with Red Pepper, Caper Berries, Arugula, Lemon Dressing.

Home Made Bouquerones with Arugula

With a hint of spiciness and ample richness of flavor, the well appointed dish was a perfect intro to the rest of the meal.

My companion chose the Tuna Crudo, with Porcini Popcorn,  Arugula and Corn Coulis. She found it beautiful to look at and extremely flavorful.

Nile Perch, Poached in Hazelnut Garlic Broth, “Risotto” of White Asparagus, Granny Smith Salad was my next choice. Again… the unusual mix of seasonal flavors were refreshing & delightful! My companion opted for the Saffron Linguine, Mojama, Almonds & Chiles. A spicey delectable mix of flavors, nicely presented.

Next we both had their Spicey-Smokey Chicken “Wings”, Red Pepper Saffron Vinaigrette, Tomato salad with Herbs, Preserved Lemon, Green olive and Jalapeno…

Close-up of one of the Spicy-Smoked Chicken "Wings" With red Pepper-Saffron Vinaigrette

Check this out!  A real treat for the taste buds!  We were instructed to place the meat into our mouths and then press the spice filled pipette releasing the wonderful burst of flavours… Pretty outrageous!

For the mains we shared both the Pizza of Beef Tongue Confi, With 24 Hour Roasted Tomato and Fresh Basil….

Pizza Beef Tongue Confi

…and the Short Ribs & Broccoli Rabe Lasagne.  The meat Pizza tasted sinfully delicious; the thin crust and beef tongue confi made the cheese topped pizzas, I’m used to, almost irrelevant. The Short Ribs Lasagne, was unusually tasty but had a rather limp presentation compared to the other dishes we sampled.

For dessert, we had the (“Manna” Bee Pollen Dusted Angel Food, Quince, Honey Ice Cream, Sugared Almonds and Olive Oil Cake, Chocolate Flan, Espresso Flavored Marron Glaces) all quite tasty – even gifted – although presentation was lack-luster. All in all, we were treated to an outstanding meal and each of us gave it two big thumbs up! In a lesser restaurant we might even have praised the minor negatives we encountered here.

Next time I’ll order from their ample beer selection, as well.

I was very gratified to see our favorite Chef, Lévana, shares our overall view after going to Pardes the evening after we did.

CS
Pardes Restaurant on Urbanspoon

24
Oct
10

Pizza at Basil


Recently, this blog was chastised on chowhound.com for not having any photos of Basil‘s pizza in either of my reviews of this superb restaurant (here and here), even though its menu offers a full array of mouthwatering pizzas. I had to agree the particular commenter was absolutely right, which gave me the perfect excuse to return to Basil (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777) for the omitted shots. Ahhh, the things we do to keep our readers happy.

This past Thursday I made my way to the restaurant anticipating a superb pie. I entered their doors at 4:00pm to a front room overflowing with early diners, and was directed to the recently opened backroom. It’s a comfortable large room featuring two fireplaces that generate a warm and cozy atmosphere.

In spite of the early hour, there were some people there already. I ordered a Pizza Margherita a la Genovese, it came with home made mozzarella (made in house from  curd), fresh San Marzano tomatoes (most chefs consider these the world’s best for sauce) and pesto.

Pizza Margherita alla Genovese

Extreme closeup of the above...

I accompanied the pizza with a delightful glass of 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja. Made fully from Tempranillo grapes from old vines around the Spanish village of Haro, in La Rioja, this bright ruby red wine paired perfectly with the pizza, totally complementing and enhancing its taste; a marriage made in heaven.

As I finished this superbly made dish, I got to to speak to Basil’s new Italian Executive Chef, Andrea Milazzo.

After graduating from the very exacting culinary school in Alassio, in Italy’s Liguria region on the gulf of Genoa, – Savona Province, Chef Andrea went to work in Montecarlo for world famous Alain Ducasse’s Le Roi Louis XV restaurant at the Hotel de Paris (regularly listed on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List). After a while he left for Munich, Germany, where he operated his own establishment for 8 years.

A few weeks ago he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Basil. When you speak to Chef Andrea, his passion for food becomes all apparent. I asked him what is his main criteria in creating a new dish or a variation of an old classic, his quick response was: “I follow my senses!” To determine how good his senses are, I asked the Chef to prepare me a special dish – regardless of price – that I would take home; even I was unprepared for the resulting masterpiece…

Chef Andrea Milazzo dramatically flambeeing his special dish for The Kosher Scene

He made me Gnudi alla Toscana. Gnudi (nude) are close cousins to gnocchi but more tender. Whereas gnocchi are made from semolina, wheat flour, bread crumbs or potatoes, gnudi are made from Ricotta cheese.

Watching the Chef at work was like being a spectator at a George Balanchine choreographed ballet, the graceful, elegant and precise moves coupled with the facial expressions, all bespoke of truly inspired artistry at its highest levels.

Before starting the preparation of the dish, Chef Andrea had me inspect all the ingredients. Starting with the superbly aromatic in-house made truffle oil (truffles are infused for two weeks into pure Tuscan olive oil, the result is great scent and a very distinctive flavor), the fresh tomatoes, spinach and cheese all combined for a beautiful symphony of taste and aroma, well worth many an encore. Bravo Chef Andrea! Bravissimo!!!

CS

RELATED POSTS

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar

Breakfast at Basil

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?

Basil on Urbanspoon

11
Oct
10

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?


Basil, a great little kosher neighborhood restaurant, sitting on the periphery of the Lubavitcher community finds itself caught in the middle of a socio-religious maelstrom, one that has even attracted the scrutinizing eye of the New York Times Magazine (provocative stories about religious Jews do sell papers!). Basil has an urban chic that  draws a diverse clientele.  Now it seems that this unlikely utopian gastronomic convergence is causing a bit of an uproar.

It’s ironic that one of the hallmarks of the Lubavitcher community is its uncanny ability to plant branches in even the most remote areas around the globe, offering friendly outreach services that attract affiliated and unaffiliated Jews. Often you’ll find Lubavitcher shluchim inviting Jews to connect and come closer to their spiritual heritage through the mitzvah of Sabbath candle lighting, or donning philacteries, shaking a lulav, or offering assistance to travelers by joining them for prayers, a meal or a farbrengen (a chassidic gathering where various aspects of chassidus are taught, stories the past are told, etc.). So, here we are in their homestead – the 770 heartland – and chillin’ Basil is getting more than it’s share of being chilled out by protesting neighbors and others seemingly concerned for the spiritual well being of their community.

Their kosher supervising organization has been called in to check up, not on their kashrut protocols which are being adhered to the letter, but on those entering the restaurant and whether the eatery is putting their Jewish clientele in some sort of spiritual jeopardy by allowing all manner of clients and get up to enter their premises. Tell me, gentle reader, are we so fragile that we need this kind of policing?  Do we really need to remove ourselves from our very environs in order to thrive and survive? Should we return to the ghettoes of yesteryear Europe? Shall we perhaps move into a 21st century American version of Rome’s 2000 year old Lungotevere Cenci – right next to the ruins of the Roman Forum and a few blocks from the Colisseum – where some Roman Jews still live, surrounded by fortress like walls with the Papal Arms at the gate? Where do we draw the line on what a supervisory organization can or cannot control in its granting of supervision? If they don’t like the music being played or who walks in off the street for a snack or a drink, can they pull their kosher certification?  Clearly, we have the tenets of kashrus which must be followed scrupulously, and we understand that Basil does so.

Photo by: brownstoner.com

When we interviewed Chef Adam, the first time we visited Basil, he mentioned – in passing – how time consuming it was to check the vegetables for bugs and how their culinary artistry is somewhat limited by the constraints of the high standards of kashrus they have to adhere to; yet, he was very proud of the fact that given the constraints they were still able to deliver the high quality and taste that brings customers back time and again.

We remember how Clara, the manager, discussed the attire and attitude of the staff as representing not just a place to eat, but also adhering and respecting the values of the Lubavitch community in whose midst they are located. When some felt the music had too much of a hip beat, Basil‘s management changed it to classical, which didn’t really detract at all (frankly, I thought it made it classier). But… the complaints continued; some protested the type of clientele, some objected to immodest modes of dress, others about speech and behavior, and talk swarmed around to whether kosher certification should be revoked if Basil allows such clients into their restaurant.

I suppose they could have a dress code – as some of the finer restaurants do – jacket and tie- no bare feet, no whatever… should they ban bare shoulders? short skirts? tattoos? foul language? touching? I mean, where do you draw the line? Should they start policing? Should they start handing out shawls, skirts and fig leaves to cover any uncovered areas?

Should the supervising organization threaten to remove their certification if they observe immodest clients eating or snuggling at the restaurant? Should such a dress and behavioral code be enforced throughout the NYC tri-state area? You can be sure that if such enforcement ever takes root, many a prestigious eatery will turn to less qualified, less careful kashrus organizations and the losers will be all of us – the kosher consumers. The fact remains that many of the higher end kosher establishments could not make it if their clientele consisted strictly of Orthodox Jews . I can just see our metropolis now – business men and women being thrown out of the finest kosher dining establishments because a dress is cut too low or a couple has been caught hugging or smooching between courses? Should we require horse blinders for humans and sell them at Basil‘s counter along with the frappé and cappuccino?

We live IN the world, not OUTSIDE of it. The true man of G-d knows how to walk among men and hold his own, gird his loins, look away when necessary, and mind his own counsel despite his surroundings. A true Jew knows how to be a beacon of light by living the Torah and not snuffing out all that glitters. We are the nation that since many a millenia has been turning sparks of ensoulment into huge flames of spiritual warmth and enlightenment. We hold our own in diversity and that is what makes us strong, that is what allowed us to endure after every mighty nation of yore is remembered mostly by its ever present ruins and tales of past glory.

Every upscale kosher restaurant and almost every other kind is constantly faced with the dilemma, but… guess what? A restaurant is not a shul, it is a public place and anyone might come in. Those who are bothered by the proximity of someone who does not meet their standards are under no obligation to patronize such an establishment.

What do you think, gentle reader? We’d love to hear your comments, pro or con.

SYR

16
Jun
10

Breakfast at Basil


Having heard so much about Basil Pizza and Wine Bar‘s (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777) Pastry Chef, Ehud (Udi) Ezra, and his delectable creations, SYR and I decided to catch him as Basil just opened up at 7:30 in the morning on Friday past. We were not disappointed! We were greeted by the the enticing aromas and colors of the fresh croissants, scones, chocolate chip cookies, muffins and more.

Freshly baked croissants, cookies and more...

muffins, muffins!

We both got delicious Cappuccinos, made from Danesi Gold Beans, nicely decorated on top, delicious to the palate. SYR opted for a Cranberry/Orange Scone while I chose a Plain Croissant. Her scone was flavorful, fresh and perfect in its taste. My croissant was buttery, delicate, melt in your mouth… just like the croissants I remembered from my travels in Europe, my youthful years in Uruguay…

Next SYR ordered a very different looking Tiramisu.

Tiramisu

It came on a sponge cake soaked with espresso and brandy.  SYR loved it!!!

I had their Fruit Tart, a pastry with vanilla beans and custard, topped with strawberies, kiwi slices and blueberries. It was great tasting and very refreshing! I finished with their Crème Brûlée (which came in three superb flavors… cardamon (unusual but amazing!) chocolate and vanilla bourbon bean. Wooow!!!

Chef Ehud then gave us a tour of the kitchen, ahhh… the aromas of freshly baked bread and pastries… few things can even compare…

Chef Ehud Ezra getting ready to bake some Italian Ciabatta

I watched the staff at work as their creations were going in and out of the oven. I was truly impressed. I went back yesterday afternoon for a succulent personal pizza, but… that’s a post for another time…

CS

RELATED POST

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar

03
Jun
10

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar


At the edge of Crown Height’s Jewish neighborhood, we walked through the tall glass paned doors of Basil Pizza and Wine Bar (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777). We were greeted by the lovely homey smells coming from their large wood oven, clearly center staged by design, partnered with an open bar and cooking area. Soft relaxing Latin music permeated a high vaulted room adorned with 13 honey jar shaped glass lanterns hanging at variegated heights back-dropped by a glass fronted honey comb wine casement.  Marble top tables and dark rustic wooden chairs filled the room commodiously, seating 45 comfortably.

Partial view of Basil. Clara Perez, the Manager, taking a breather in one of those rare low traffic moments.

The pizza and wine bar opened its doors in late February of this year. Just a few months in, with an extensive gourmet dairy menu created by his predecessor, Chef Adam  (who started his culinary training in Italy’s Costa D’Amalfi – then the restaurant’s sous-chef – was suddenly asked to take the helm as chef de cuisine.  Like the young Luciano Pavoratti in February 1965 – who was asked to replace the regular tenor – in an evening’s fateful  performance (Donizzetti’s Lucia de Lamermoor) at the Greater Miami Opera, young Chef Adam stepped up to the plate prevailing successfully without missing a single high note apparently, for he served up dish after dish of consistently delicious Basil favorites.

We began this, our latest restaurant adventure, with their Wild Mushroom Pizza made with Goat Cheese, Mozzarella and Truffle Oil, we took a side dish of their signature Basil Fries, sprinkled with Fresh Parmesan aside a  Garlic-Truffle Mayo Dip- clearly – not for the faint hearted.  Both were delicious.  The thin crusted pizza dough (made with imported Italian flour) was terrific, as were the wild mushrooms and goat cheese topping. CS predictably downed a respectable number of fries, loving the crispy strips dipped in truffle mayo. We both opted for Tishbi’s Chenin Blanc to accompany our meal. It was perfect for the table fare and the balmy summer afternoon. I had a respectable Arugula and Beets Salad topped with medallions of warm goat cheese sprinkled with pine nuts and a truffle vinaigrette.

CS, gnocchi Gnostic that he is, couldn’t help but devour the Goat Cheese Gnocchi Gratin rich with Tomatoes, Spinach and Parmesan Bread Crumbs. He found it flavorful, authentic Italian Campagna, done to perfection! We sampled three more mains; spinach ricotta dumplings, striped bass, and a saffron risotto.  I went for their Striped Bass, with Charred Fennel, Pea Risotto and Meyer Lemon Cream. Presentation was outstanding as you can see from the pictures below (we had a very, very tough time settling on only three photos of the dishes!).  The charred fennel was set like a sail atop a perfectly cooked striped bass a sea in a gustable green pea risotto. The Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings with Melted Mozzarella were ambrosial- especially with the enfolded Tomatoes  Roasted for 24 hours in Balsamic Vinegar, fennel seeds and just the right touch of chili flakes. Basil buys mozzarella curd and stretches it on location, enhancing the flavor that much more.  The Saffron Risotto with Forest Mushrooms, Grilled White Asparagus, was quite aromatic. The forest mushrooms and white asparagus were savory & toothsome, though at this point we were quite full.

Goat Cheese Gnocchi Gratin

Stiped Bass, with Charred Fennel, Pea Risotto and Meyer Lemon Cream

Saffron Risotto, with Forest Mushrooms, Grilled White Asparagus, Peas and Parmesan

We’ll have to come back and meet their pastry chef, Ehud Ezra; word on the street is that he is an amazing talent.  A graduate of the Institute for Culinary Education, he trained at Oceana in Manhattan and was Pastry Chef for several years at Whole Foods (among other prestigious establishments), before coming to Basil, we tasted his Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cake served with Turkish Fig Puree and Melon. He’s there at 5:00 am preparing his croissants and other pastries, opening for breakfast service at 7:30 am. Chef Adam also treated us to a tasting of his home-made colorful Sorbet Trio and Basil Ice Cream (made from basil, you read it right!). Yummmm!

Sitting on the cusp of this Lubavitch neighborhood, Basil stands at the edge of new cuisine and ambiance territory.  The reluctant humble yet flight worthy fledgling chef and his team run a successful operation with the help of their warm friendly manager Clara Perez, whose respect and reverie for the Lubavitch community is admirable. The convergence of crossed cultures amongst their staff and the harmonious blend of clientele dining together with Basil’s good food its nucleus, is nothing short of chevlei mashiach amazing. The obstacles were many; it shouldn’t work but it does, remarkably so! Some places are just plain blessed that way.

SYR

Basil on Urbanspoon




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