Steamed Clams with Linguica

A recent Portuguese Food Tour in Hartford gave us the opportunity to purchase ingredients found in Portuguese cuisine as well as the inspiration to cook with them. We made this "stew" late that night (when we were finally hungry again!), using some of Chef DeSousa's rice we had leftover as its "bed," and delicious Portuguese rolls from La Estrella's to accompany it. 

1/2 pound linguica, cut in rounds on the bias
2 pounds littleneck clams
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
handful of fresh cilantro, torn
3/4 cup white wine, preferably Portuguese
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt

Put linguica, clams, garlic and cilantro into a large pot. Pour in white wine and water and then add salt. Put the lid on and cook over high heat so that the clams steam open. Serve over rice and with a good Portuguese wine to enjoy a simple, traditional Portuguese meal.


Portuguese Food Tour

We recently participated in a Portuguese Food Tour of Hartford hosted by the fabulous Prudence Sloane. The tour focused on a few blocks of Park Street in Hartford, where a variety of ethnic cuisines can be found within a few blocks of each other - not only Portuguese, but also Brazilian, Thai, Vietnamese and more.

After enjoying a few tasty tidbits and coffee at O'Porto restaurant (our homebase), we walked to La Estrella bakery to try some traditional Portuguese bread and pastries. Their rolls were light, airy and crusty while their Portuguese custard tarts had a great balance of texture and flavor. Our next stop was Solimar Market. There, we tasted linguica and cheese, and got an educational tour of the different ingredients and products that are used in real Portuguese cuisine. They have a great variety of fish, including salted codfish, at great prices. Our final stop before lunch was at King's Wine Shop, where we tasted a few Portuguese wines, including a ruby/tawny blend of Port, and green wine, a table wine that is meant to be enjoyed while it is very young.

We returned to O'Porto around noon, laden with our many purchases. Once here, we were treated to a cooking demonstration by our charming  hosts, Sergio DeSousa and his father, Chef DeSousa. Chef is a spunky seventy-something-year-old gentleman with a gleam in his eye and an obvious passion for cooking. With copies of his own recipes in our hands, we watched intently as he demonstrated how to make four different Portuguese dishes. Then we sat back and waited while Chef returned to the kitchen and made the same dishes in full size for each of us to enjoy (see below). It was a delightful experience that offered a lot of insight into Portuguese food. We will certainly return to the neighborhood next time we're in the mood for this flavorful Mediterranean-style cuisine, and highly recommend O'Porto for a delicious meal.

Course One -
Scallop with a Shrimp and Crab Stuffing
A perfectly seared scallop is flambed with brandy and vermouth and topped with a seafood mixture for an elegant starter.

Course Two -
Rice Stew with Monkfish, Shrimp and Clams
Chef's version of a common Portuguese dish, this stew of seafood, onion, garlic and tomato is cooked with the perfect blend of seasonings and served over spiced rice.

Course Three -
Rack of Lamb
The distinct flavor of port wine gives New Zealand lamb and Portuguese twist - fork-tender and oh, so flavorful!

Dessert -
A perfect ending to summer meal, this "pudding" made of egg whites and sugar was like eating sweet spoonfuls of air.


Max's Chef to Farm Dinner

This summer, the Max Restaurant Group is hosting a series of Chef to Farm Dinners held at the beautiful Rosedale Farms in Simsbury. We went to the "Under the Tuscan Sun" themed dinner on July 1st.

Our visit started with a wine tasting reception featuring Rosedale Farms' own wines and a variety of hors d'ouevres featuring locally made cheeses. After a tractor-drawn tour of the farm by farm owner and host Marshall Epstein, we strolled to the tented area where tables covered in candles, crystal and white linen waited. As the sun set over the bounty of the farm, we enjoyed a five-course meal made right there on the farm by Chef Michael Lefebvre of Max a Mia and Chef Scott Miller of Max's Oyster Bar. They used only locally grown, seasonal ingredients throughout, and paired each course with one of the Rosedale wines, so we were able to taste them all. It was a beautiful night and an incredible dinner. We really enjoyed tasting all that Connecticut farms have to offer, especially at this time of year. We hope you'll enjoy reading the menu and taking a look at some of our photos from this special evening.

Amuse Bouche
Housemade Mozzarella Rolatini - Hand worked mozzarella, Urban Oaks basil pesto, Rosedale Farms hydro micro greens, Starlight Gardens early girl tomatoes, Fried Dough
Paired with Rosedale's "Three Sisters"

Soup Course
Red Beet Root Soup (Zuppa di Barbabietole)
Braised Eaglewood Farms short rib, Broth of Roasted Holcomb Farm beets, Beltane Farms goats milk creme fraiche, shaved Starlight Gardens radish
Paired with Rosedale's "Serendipity"

Second Course
Ravioli filled with Liuzzi Bros. ricotta and Rosedale Farms English peas, smokey parmesan broth, young pea greens, squash blossoms
Paired with Rosedale's "Farmington River Red"

Entree Course
 (alas, the photo of this did not come out)
Slow Roasted Rowland Farms Porchetta, Four Fields Farm Swiss Chard, Hardneck garlic, Belltown Farms cherry jus
Paired with Rosedale's "Lou's Red"

Family Style Sides
Rosedale Farms Summer Squash "ratatouille"
Summer Orzo Salad, Four Fields Farm Arugula, Scarlet Queen Turnips

Dessert Course
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Rosedale Farms berries and Belltown Farms stone fruits
Paired with Rosedale's "Summer Bouquet"


Meet Us in St. Louis Part Two

And, here is the second half of A Couple in the Kitchen's Culinary Guide to St. Louis.

Best Beer
Root beer, actually. Fitz's, in the area known as The Loop, makes their own sodas on the premises. Watch as their concoctions are blended, bottled and capped, then sit and enjoy one plain or as a float. The root beer was smooth, sweetened with real cane sugar, and had nice hints of birch - so refreshing on a hot day!

Best Appetizer
The Central West End is a fantastic area for restaurants and shopping. It was there that we discovered Scape and had our favorite appetizer in St. Louis - Barbecued Shrimp with Cheddar Grits. Three large, sweet, tangy, peppery grilled shrimp were stacked over creamy, cheesy grits for an amazing mingling of flavors. We were thisclose to ordering a second round. So delicious was this creation that t.v. personality and food expert Phil Lempert reviewed it and printed the recipe here. If you can't go there, make it at home!

Best Brunch
You're in St. Louis. You're going to visit The Arch (it's a must-do!). Why not start with an amazing champagne brunch first? That's what we figured! The Millennium Hotel's Top of the Riverfront restaurant is a revolving restaurant near the Arch with a top-notch brunch of over 100 items and plenty of bubbly. We loved the food almost as much as the incredible views of the city, the Arch and the Mississippi River.

Best Bar
This one's a tie. We loved Bridge Tap House for its modern decor, hip atmosphere and knowledgable, friendly bartenders. We loved it more for its extensive menu - over 200 beers, over 100 wines, and a wide variety of unique liquors, plus charcuterie, cheeses, desserts and other snacks. Excellent for late-night visits. Then there's The Fountain on Locust - technically an ice-cream parlor, with an incredible art-deco interior. Homemade ice creams, like Zanzibar chocolate and champagne sherbet, are featured in sundaes, old-fashioned sodas, and cocktails like the Sparkline Champagne Float (pictured), which could be Amy's most favorite drink ever.

Best Overall
Our best overall goes to a relative newcomer on the St. Louis scene. It has it all - fun atmosphere, welcoming staff, good prices - and the best barbecue we have ever had. Ever. This honor goes to Pappy's Smokehouse. Smoked low and slow over cherry and apple wood, their meats were spectacular, even without their tasty barbecue sauces (as they say, "Sauce is on the side 'cause there's nothing to hide."). When we did get around to adding sauce to our falling-off-the-bone ribs, moist pulled pork and fork-tender brisket, we loved the sweet kick of the "Sweet Baby Jane" and the smoky tanginess of the "Pappy's Original" sauces. Their sides are nothing short of brilliant in themselves, particularly their housemade baked beans and deep-fried corn-on-the-cob. Pappy's smokes a certain amount of each item, so go early because they do run out. The line (we hear there's always a line) moves quickly and the meal is worth every second of the wait. We were too busy stuffing our faces to take pictures of our food (plus the camera would have gotten covered in saucy fingerprints), but here we are afterwards, happily filled to the brim with spectacular barbecue. A special shout-out goes to Pappy's partner John for making us feel like old friends. We'll come back to St. Louis just for another meal at this extraordinary bbq joint.


Meet Us in St Louis Part One

We recently returned from a vacation in St. Louis. We had a great week full of beautiful sights, friendly people and amazing food. Although we did much more than eat (we swear!), this is a food blog after all, so here we give you the first half of A Couple in the Kitchen's Culinary Guide to St. Louis.

Best Lunch (Casual)
As we walked toward our hotel, we caught a whiff of something delicious. Then we passed him - Carlos, the Sausage King of St. Louis - fire-grilling a feast of 10" brats, dogs and Polish sausage for lunch. It was our first meal in town, and it was only $5 each, including chips, a drink and dessert. A great start! Find Carlos on the corner of 6th and Olive most business days.

Best Lunch (Schmancy)
Forest Park is full of excellent (and free!) attractions. We spent time at the zoo, the science center, and the history museum. On the second floor of the museum is a fantastic restaurant called Bixby's. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the park,  and local, seasonal offerings, it's a great place to rest your well-traveled feet and enjoy some of the best food Missouri has to offer. Check out Chris's sea bass with mango and fingerling potatoes. My Missouri-raised skirt steak was to die for as well.

Best Italian (Shop)
There's an entire neighborhood devoted to Italian food in St. Louis called The Hill. Wandering on the outskirts of this area, we discovered an authentic salumeria called Salume Beddu where Mark Sanfilippo is hand-crafting artisanal meats cured in the traditional way with modern flair. His incredible pancetta helped us create our best bucatini all'amatriciana ever. Laudate lardum (Praise the lard!), indeed!

Best Italian (Restaurant)
Mark suggested we cross the street and enjoy some Sicilian fare at Da Baldo's. If you ignore the dated decor (think Italian salon circa 1970), minimal air-conditioning and torn upholstery, you're in for some great pasta. Baldo himself was our chef and host, his wife, Madda, our hostess. They were a cute couple, very gracious, and we had a very friendly and outgoing server as well. A house specialty appetizer, "Scampi Baldo", grilled shrimp in a butter sauce with basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes, topped with browned breadcrumbs, was delizioso! I thoroughly enjoyed the "Bowtie Cognac," farfalle pasta in a creamy tomato cognac sauce with prosciutto and peas. However, Chris definitely hit the jackpot with his dish (pictured) - "Tortellini alla Panna." The light meat tortellini were mixed with prosciutto and peas as well, but a nice hint of sherry gave the sauce great depth of flavor. Don't miss the house-made tartufo for dessert. 


200th Post - Where We've Been

Hey, all. We've had a busy few weeks and haven't had much time to do any posting. We had a successful end to the school year, went on a week's vacation to St. Louis (more on that, we promise!), participated in our good friend's wedding, and adopted a new kitten. Whew! Whirlwind, indeed, but we have plenty of food adventures to tell you about, and we will in the upcoming weeks. Please don't give up on us!!!

In the meantime, we'd like to celebrate our 200th post with this news - we were "Superlative Winners" in the Ted's Montana Grill Secret Ingredient Showdown with our Fried Crab and Avocado Wontons. They awarded our creation the "Crabby Californian" award. We're not sure what our prize will be, but are thrilled to see our recipe highlighted on the Ted's website (click on "crab" on the top left, then see our recipe on the bottom right corner of the crab page). Hooray!!!


Stainless Steel Deal - Today Only!!!

Besides a perfect chef's knife, what's better than a variety of stainless steel mixing bowls to suit your every purpose? When we saw this deal online, we had to let you know about it. We use our set every day for everything - mixing, prepping, serving. They are freezer- and dishwasher-safe also. A set of six for $15? It's a steal. Pun intended.