Smith & Ratliff » Smith & Ratliff Fri, 20 Feb 2015 14:38:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sushi Nakazawa Mon, 20 Jan 2014 17:13:05 +0000 ...]]>

King Salmon at Sushi Nakazawa

Last year, after release of the acclaimed documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, we were inspired to branch out from our regular sushi delivery order of maki rolls and miso soup and try one of the more traditional and better-quality sushi restaurants around the city. We didn’t get around to doing that in a timely manner but luckily for us, time worked in our favor, as earlier this year, one of Jiro’s apprentices, Daisuke Nakazawa, moved to New York and opened his own restaurant, Sushi Nakazawa.

After The New York Times awarded Nakazawa four-stars—their highest possible rating—we scurried to make a reservation, knowing that doing so in the coming months would prove nearly impossible.

Our reservation finally arrived this past week, so we walked over to the West Village and were treated to two hours of Nakazawa’s skill and showmanship.

Chopsticks at Sushi Nakazawa

Chef Slicing Sushi at Sushi Nakazawa

Chef Daisuke Nakazawa

Sushi Nakazawa Apprentice

At the sushi bar, you are served 20 different pieces of sushi, each prepared differently and served with incredible care and attention to detail.

The dinner opened with a piece of king salmon from Hokkaido, Japan, bright and flavorful under just a squeeze of yuzu and a pinch of Japanese sea salt. Throughout the meal, Nakazawa introduces each piece of fish, explaining its preparation, its English name, and even using his iPad as a visual aid.

Hay-Smoked Chum Salmon

Live Mantis Shrimp

He is also tremendously funny and amiable, cracking jokes about the “dancing live scallop” we were served and showing off the live, energetic mantis shrimp before he tears its head off and in turns it into a piece of sushi.

We both loved the six-day pickled mackerel, a unique preparation of a fish that is divisive in our household, and the house-cured salmon roe (ikura). Nakazawa is also a fan of the blowtorch, giving a few pieces a quick sear, slightly warming the fish and charring the rice’s exterior. His rice was the best sushi rice we have had by far—warm, sticky without being gummy, and a perfect contrast to the cool slices of fish.

Red Snapper Sushi

O Toro Sushi

Ikura, house-cured salmon roe

Since dining with Nakazawa, we’ve even attempted our own delivery sushi upgrades, adding a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt to our salmon. It’s not quite the same as Sushi Nakazawa, but until we return, it will have to do.

- Laura and Ryan

Original article: Sushi Nakazawa

©2016 Smith & Ratliff. All Rights Reserved.

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Today’s Bordeaux: Italian Jam Shortbread Tart Thu, 09 Jan 2014 21:29:24 +0000 ...]]>

Jam and Almond Tart Dessert Ideas

We know many people who think that, like champagne, Bordeaux wine has to be an expensive affair for grand dinners or kept locked up for years to age. The truth is that great values can be had for all types of wine, and Bordeaux is no exception. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing three selections—a red, a rosé, and a dessert wine—from Today’s Bordeaux, a hand-picked selection of wines between $9 and $55.

One of the most opulent wines from Bordeaux is, surprisingly, not a bold red wine, but a sweet dessert wine from the Sauternes region. Sauternes is a gravelly region in the Graves section in Bordeaux, situated close to the Garonne River. While Sauternes produces both red and white wines, they’re perhaps most famous for their eponymous dessert wines.

Sauternes wines are made from three grape varietals: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle, that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as “noble rot”. This disease causes the grapes to lose moisture while retaining sugar, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines.

Half-bottle of Castelnau de Suduiraut

Due to its climate, Sauternes is one of the few wine regions where noble rot is a frequent occurrence. Since it can be hard to have enough grapes be both affected by the rot and still be useable, some producers may go years without releasing a vintage. This makes many Sauternes very rare and hard to find, but, as we’ve pointed out earlier, there are many bargains to be found and it isn’t too difficult to find a half bottle of Sauternes for under $20.

One of the wines in this price range is the Castlenau de Suduirat, a “second” wine from Château Suduirat, one Sauternes’ best producers. Like most Sauternes, the Castlenau de Suduirat has a syrup-like texture and taste, with notes of honey. Surprisingly, while the best Sauternes are incredibly sweet, they’re never cloying, making them an excellent pairing for everything from foie gras to a dessert pastry.

A Jam and Almond Tart for Dessert

We paired our Sauternes with a jam and almond shortbread tart, a mildly sweet dessert that benefitted from the extra “punch” of the wine’s sweetness. The recipe—a remarkably easy one that I found on Food52—was elevated by the addition of excellent wine, making the entire combination perfectly effortless for a dinner party.

Italian Jam Shortbread Tart (Fregolotta)
Adapted from Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style

12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. jam (I used a mixed berry jam, made with wine)
1/3 c. almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position an oven rack in the center of oven.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix on medium speed until the mixture is very light in color, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond extract and blend well, another 30 seconds.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and combine on a low speed just until the dough is thoroughly combined. Measure out 1/2 c. of the dough and set it on a small plate, then place the plate in the freezer.
4. Press the remaining dough into a tart pan in an even layer. Use the back of a spoon to spread the jam in a thin, even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving a border of about 1-inch around the edges.
6. Remove the reserved dough from the freezer and crumble it into small pieces over the layer of the jam, allowing some of the jam to peek through. Sprinkle the sliced almonds evenly over the top of the tart.
7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the topping is a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Jam and Almond Tart Paired with a Sauternes


Thank you to The Bordeaux Wine Council for providing the wine for this series. As always, all opinions are our own.

Original article: Today’s Bordeaux: Italian Jam Shortbread Tart

©2016 Smith & Ratliff. All Rights Reserved.

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Today’s Bordeaux: Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard, and Cream Mon, 23 Dec 2013 16:54:29 +0000 ...]]>

Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard, and Cream

We know many people who think that, like champagne, Bordeaux wine has to be an expensive affair for grand dinners or kept locked up for years to age. The truth is that great values can be had for all types of wine, and Bordeaux is no exception. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing three selections—a red, a rosé, and a dessert wine—from Today’s Bordeaux, a hand-picked selection of wines between $9 and $55.

A red Bordeaux blend is one of our favorite wines to have with dinner. We usually prefer more Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy Bordeaux, but the beauty of the blend is that there is something for everyone’s tastes.

Pouring Red Bordeaux Wine

This bottle, from Château Jean Faux, is a Bordeaux Supérieur, meaning the wine must be aged 12 months prior to releasing, and often times the grapes come from smaller parcels of land and older vines. The result is wine that can be enjoyed immediately, rather than waiting year after year for that bottle of Grand Cru to be just the right age. The price point—most Supérieur bottles can be had for under $20—means you can have them with an everyday dinner without worry.

We paired the Jean Faux with a meal from our slow cooker, another recent obsession in our house. Slow cookers have a bad reputation for being ugly and producing tasteless, mushy meals, but we’ve found the opposite to be true. Since being gifted an attractive slow cooker and buying a fabulous book—The French Slow Cooker—we’ve been cooking up cassoulets and other French-inspired dishes, perfect for pairing with Bordeaux.

For this meal, chicken legs simmered with Dijon mustard and fresh herbs, before being served over a bed of roasted Romanesco cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. If you don’t have a slow cooker, a long cook in a Dutch oven could also to the trick.

Romanesco Cauliflower

Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard, and Cream
Adapted from The French Slow Cooker

1/2 c. chicken broth
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 whole chicken legs, skin remove
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish
1/3 c. heavy cream

1. Pour the broth and vinegar into a large slow cooker.
2. Stir the mustard together with salt and pepper to taste. Brush the chicken all over with the seasoned mustard. Arrange the chicken pieces in the slow cooker, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with the garlic, parsley, and tarragon.
3. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
4. Remove the chicken to a serving plate and cover to keep warm. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan and skim off the excess fat. Bring the juices to a simmer over high heat. Stir in the cream and return to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.
5. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh herbs and serve hot.

Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard and Cream

Serve this with the green vegetable of your choice, although the cookbook’s author also recommends rice or noodles. A hearty meal like this calls for a hearty wine, making a red Bordeaux Supérieur a perfect (and economical) choice.

- Laura and Ryan

Thank you to The Bordeaux Wine Council for providing the wine for this series. As always, all opinions are our own.

Original article: Today’s Bordeaux: Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard, and Cream

©2016 Smith & Ratliff. All Rights Reserved.

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Mai Thai Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:00:54 +0000 ...]]>

Mai Thai Pineapple Cocktail

Earlier this week, we received an early Christmas gift from Laura’s aunts: a collection of The Bitter End bitters, made in small batches in Santa Fe, a city where Laura spent a lot of time growing up.

While we can’t wait to experiment with the other three bottles (a heady trio of Chesapeake Bay, Memphis Barbecue, and Mexican Mole), one flavor jumped out at us immediately as something we had to use in a drink—the Thai Bitters.

Bitter End Thai Bitters

When we first tasted them, the Thai Bitters surprised us. They had all the elements of Thai cooking, with notes of galangal and coriander, but within a couple of seconds, we were both gasping for breath and reaching for the nearest glass of water. These bitters were spicy, too, thanks to a healthy dose of Thai chilies!

After making our guests a few rounds of Stocking Stuffers at their request, I started thinking about how best to use the Thai bitters. We wanted to make something that meshed with the traditional Thai flavors, but also wasn’t overwhelmed by heat.

Chili-Sugar Rimmed Glass

Laura had the idea of using fresh pineapple and a chili powder-sugar rim as a way to cut through the bitters’ spice. We started by muddling about 6-8 pineapple chunks in a shaker, then added an ounce of the lime juice, 2 ounces of light rum and four dashes of the Thai bitters. After shaking, we strained into a coupe, rimmed with the sugar mixture, and garnished with a pineapple chunk.

The end result—a Mai Thai, a pun on the classic tiki cocktail, the Mai Tai—was a drink that still packed a punch, but with enough sweetness to soften the blow. Of course, unlike our recent holiday cocktails that are best enjoyed near a Christmas tree and a fireplace, this drink had us dreaming of being on the beach in Phuket. Isn’t that where everyone wants to be this time of year anyway?

- Ryan

Rum-Pineapple Thai Cocktail

Original article: Mai Thai

©2016 Smith & Ratliff. All Rights Reserved.

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Hand-Dipped Wooden Spoons Wed, 18 Dec 2013 18:29:40 +0000 ...]]>

An Easy Christmas DIY: Hand-Dipped Wooden Spoons

When Ryan and I visited the Provisions by Food52 holiday pop-up shop a few weeks ago, I loved the look of these dipped wooden spoons.

I have a lot of great cooks in my life, and I’ve found that giving a thoughtful, useful gift for the kitchen is always appreciated. While those particular spoons are now sold out, I spent a few days thinking about how to make my own in a palette of cheery pastels.

Plain Wooden Spoons

Here’s what I did:

Amazon sells a set of three very inexpensive wooden spoons, but you could also mix-and-match with spoons purchased from a restaurant supply store.

Colorful Paint Samples

For the paint, I purchased $1.99 paint samples from the hardware store. I used three different Benjamin Moore colors: Secret, Coral Gables, and Palladian Blue.

I taped the spoons using regular blue painter’s tape so that the lines would be crisp and then went for it. Each spoon got two coats, which seemed to be plenty, although you could do more for thicker coverage. If you’re feeling adventurous with the tape, you could even do stripes or geometric designs.

Painting Wooden Spoons

Non-Toxic Shellac and Paint Brushes

Once I painted the spoons, I wanted to ensure that the paint wouldn’t chip easily and I also wanted to give the spoons a glossy, smooth finish, so I used a non-toxic spray shellac.

The final product came together quickly and looks great! Like most handmade gifts, I would recommend that these be treated with care and not put through the dishwasher or exposed to extremely high heat. Wrapped in a unique tea towel (I actually just bought this one) and tied with sisal rope, you have a simple, unique gift that can be easily customized for each recipient.

- Laura

Original article: Hand-Dipped Wooden Spoons

©2016 Smith & Ratliff. All Rights Reserved.

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