Fergeburger. Queenstown,NZ

 

 

This trip to New Zealand is becoming greater every day, we are beginning day 4 and feel that if I was leaving today, the 20 hours that took us to arrive here from home were paid by now.
The beauty is so pure and vast, we have been driving miles and miles, and it doesn’t stop. And you don’t get tired of it. It feeds the soul.

Queenstown being our first real stop; we arrived in Auckland from LAX but took a two-hour flight over here to visit the south of the country. It has been sublime.

Whether I feel to keep on going talking about the land, these posts are supposed to be about our food experiences so that I will focus on that. While researching places to visit and eat, one popped up recurrently as a must visit. Fergeburger. A small hamburger shop in the core of the tourist center and it was, as expected packed. There was a line of maybe 50 people waiting to order in the sidewalk as a staff member is handing you the menu, they have two long tables for sharing on the sides of the entrance, inside a few stools close to the wall and the biggest crowd is fighting for a spot to get their order at the counter. How many burgers do they sell? Too many to count.

Well, the burger. Next, to the main shop there are a couple other Ferge-venues that sell pastries and bread and ice cream. I was happy to see the bakery since it is for me a guarantee that a chef that can bake is way better that one who can’t.

The buns are fantastic, soft but with an excellent crust, the hamburger made with excellent meat and charcoal grilled that you can taste, a good NZ cheddar, dill pickles and paid four more bucks for some great fries (perfect). While we wait for our hamburger (we shared), we ate a Meat pie from the bakery that was hot and delicious. After 187 other patrons, we got our hamburger and went to eat it at a park nearby where ducks kept coming at us begging for food. We drove by a couple of hours in front of the place, still a crowd making the line to get some food.

Next time, I will focus more on the bakery.

Joe´s Garage Queenstown, NZ

 

Joe¨s Garage Lunch

 

For three weeks I won’t be posting recipes or food from our restaurant. The time of the year came to take a little break with my wife to celebrate both our birthdays and our first wedding anniversary. We picked New Zealand for the first and last third of our trip. Today I will post about a little place in Queenstown that we learn from in the Fodor´s Guide, its name:
Joes Garage. This small establishment uses the Car Shop theme and yet simple has its style. And let me tell you, they have something good going on.
They have seats outside in a terrace, but at lunchtime when we arrived, there was nobody there, and a couple of tables were inside already eating.
The bartender greeted us and offered a lunch menu. We looked and decided to go for “The Morocco” and a Tomato-Basil soup from the specials menu.
When we see the Tomato soup offered in Menus, we have some conflicted feelings about it. We love it, but if you are not lucky, you may be up for a disappointment. Some people think it is just throwing tomatoes in a blender. It happened us in Chicago last September.

Joe’s soup was excellent; my wife will always say the only is worth to have the one at Nordstrom. I happened to agree it is good not that it is the single worthy.
The Moroccan is a Greek-style Pita with a lamb pattie, Halumi cheese, and Rucola. Some basil vinaigrette and a side of horseradish. We loved it.
The espresso is perfect, they brag about it and delivered.

This meal I would probably recommend to pair with a nice Pinot Noir since the Kiwis have an excellent selection on this grape.

Enjoy!

Calamari “al Ajillo”

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Most commonly prepared with shrimp this is one of those dishes where simplicity proves to be the closest road to greatness. We prepare this appetizer with Calamari. Most time we have to explain to customers that this is not the regular Fried and battered Calamari rings with a side of Marinara sauce; which personally I find quite boring and lacking imagination. The ingredients are just a few and pretty basic, such as the preparation. We like the whole Calamari (Head and Tentacles) for a bit of theatricality. Favorite of so many customers; we had a list of people’s phone numbers requesting to be called when the Calamari is on the Menu.

This list is now to be framed and will be used as memorabilia since the Calamari al Ajillo made its way into the regular Menu and it is the regular menu and it is there to stay.

Whole calamari, Guajillo pepper, garlic, clarified butter little salt and pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of white wine.

The secret? None! Heat up a cast iron skillet, add butter and seasoning ingredients and just drop the Calamari when sizzling hot; let the heat and fat create a spicy “crust-sauce” coating the seafood and let the flavors melt together. Add the wine at the end and bring sizzling to the table. Eat with pita toasts or garlic bread.

Pairing: A nice Crisp Chardonnay

 

Salmon Tortellini

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We live on an Island and you would think all Islanders go to the beach, eat fish and Seafood all the time. Well, let me tell you; it doesn’t work that way. I have lived 27 years in this beautiful corner of the Caribbean; I certainly decided to stay because of my love to the ocean and the fresh produce it provides us with but, not everybody does.

On the other hand, as servers, we have the responsibility to provide the best experience with the best product available and we get the chance sometimes to educate by sharing what we do best. In this shores, we have a lot of Wahoo, Mahi-Mahi, Red Snapper, Snapper, and many other species and time have taught me that Tuna, for example, is not a local´s favorite. Its flavor is a little stronger to the rest of the white fishes that swim in our waters. Salmon, just like Tuna, is not the first or even second choice for our local customers plus, it is not a local product. We try to create dishes that will help introduce this new and uncommon flavors into their palates so they have more options on our menu.

Starting with the Salmon empanadas in the Tapas menu and the Spinach salad with Salmon we have had thumbs up from our clients. That is great and allows our kitchen to experiment with new dishes. This time Monserrat came up with another great dish. She is a great cook and has shared plenty of ideas for the specials and the caterings we have done. She likes her pasta thin but “al dente”; today we had a great Salmon Tortellini with Alfredo sauce and some grilled julienne Zucchini that helps the contrast of flavors and cleans the palate.

Thank you Monserrat, this is an excellent pasta!

This is a dish that you can’t miss and that I am sure will have a lot of followers very soon.

Pairings: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio

 

 

 

 

 

Empanadas

 

Marinara sauce and Chimichurri dippings
Salmon and goat cheese and Corn with Spinach

 

How many cultures do you think our world has? So many different people, languages and costumes. All kind of food and ingredients and ideas and yet, many times we see preparations that remind us of something we grew up with, they hit home.

Food is fantastic, it gathers families, friends together and defines costumes and nations. Its influence is so powerful that can make unbearable life away from home or make someone happy reminding them of it.

When you hear the word Empanada , it brings an image of something you know, a feeling and a taste that makes you feel good. You can say it anywhere in the world, and most people would smile, raise their hand and say yes! This is the ultimate example of comfort food, made with corn or wheat; fried or baked, with meat, fish, vegetarian, savory or sweet.

Mexico, Argentina, Panama, all Latin America; Greece, Italy, Spain and yes, the rest of the world.

I remember my kids learning to work the dough in their Grandma´s home. It was like an initiation ritual once they were able to walk. Their little hands and their happy faces. The mess.

This week we decided to make some appetizer that would bring our customers to this family moments, to home and family. This great appetizer from our head cook Montserrat was made the first time for a tapas menu  at an art exhibition we hosted at Le Chef. Four empanadas, two with corn and spinach and two with salmon and goat cheese; on the side, marinara sauce and chimichurri. They are awesome, every time tables order a second plate.

Pairing: House Sangria, Beer, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc.

Go for them, Have a great weekend!

Salsa Picante

 

 

There are countless cooking styles in our planet; from sweet to savory and indigenous ingredients tha mixed with all kind of rare products thanks to Mankind´s nomadic nature. Pasta originated in China and Marco Polo brought it to the west; nowadays, Italy claims its creation or at least the proper knowledge and best quality to prepare it. We all agree that they may have been the ones who helped making it famous worldwide.

Today, most of food is recognizable and available all over the world, adapted and modified to specific tastes and local preferences. Food has reached a global influence and belongs to humanity more than to a particular group.

One of the most famous and better welcome condiments may come from Mexico or Latin America. I don’t really want to get into controversy about this since, it is my belief that food is meant to share and to nurture our souls while bringing friends and families together. How many love stories started or grew around food. It is the fastest route to a womans heart. It works!

Lets go back to salsa, we have them red, green, borrachas, mild hot extra hot and extra-extra-extra hot. You can see people from all ages, and cultures willingly making their mouths catch on fire and not being able to stop. Why?, I don’t know, it is addictive.

Ours has become a must on every service at the table, locals, tourists, expats, old and young patrons had made it clear it should come to the table by default.

Roast Xcatic, Habanero, Poblano, Serrano peppers, garlic and onion. Season and add extra virgin olive oil. Add tomatoes for red. Can it and enjoy.

Pairing : Anything.

Angel Kiss Shrimp

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I know, sometimes when I see bacon in a dish, I doubt initially. Some ingredients are so powerful and so many people like them that for someone who has been in this business for so long sounded like cheating.

We use it in our signature dish the LBS and thought a lot before offering on our menu, trying to avoid that criticism. This dish, I have to say is not original from us but we did gave it a little spin with higher quality ingredients. It is a hit, no regrets or worries from possible comments towards taking the Bacon easy road.

One night, sat down to have  dinner after the service rush, a waiter come and asked me what would I order. “Sh…!, I don’t know, to be honest. Let me think please.”

He replied with great confidence: “Why don’t you get an Angel Kiss Shrimp?”… -Mmh, what the heck is that? I’ve never had it “Well you cook shrimp with cheese and bacon” – OK, let’s do something, tell the kitchen to butterfly the shrimp, slide in a slice of fresh Mozarella, then wrap it in bacon, broil it and add some Pesto sauce on top of it, please. “Do you care for any garnish?” – Yes, rice and veggies please.

And it came to the table, wasnt sure really. Again was afraid that it was only cutting corners and have never liked to do it personally. I would be giving a hard time to myself for a long time.

I was wrong, It was great, I have to say. He had a great idea and stands proudly on our menu as one of the items people love the most.

Pair it with a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc (or nowadays, with a coke for me).

Lobster and Bacon Sandwich

It was 2009, and the Island of Cozumel was having a terrible year; right after the economic crisis when lots of people lost their homes and their money. To make it worse, in the first quarter of the year we got “the swine flu,” and our economy collapsed. By then I had lived in Cozumel for 18 years and had never seen something like this. People were asking for money or any job they can have. This is common in big cities, and indeed, in Mexico city where I was born and raised but here, it was not only new, it was outrageous. We had opened a new restaurant in a beautiful Thatched Roof House on a  corner south of Le Chef´s location.

One of the first homes built on the Island, a lovely spot with a backyard and a magnificent Bougainvillea; it had been a Lobster place for a few years, but they closed it down after hurricane Wilma; so I wanted to take a chance and went on a new venture, and that’s when  Le Bistrot was born. I decided to make a little more elaborated menu than Le Chef since I was curious to cook some higher level cuisine and lobster was the perfect excuse to be the center of a new item. However, the loss of all Cruise ship visits to the Island because of the stupid quarantine left us with a ton of Lobster in our freezers. I had no idea how to sell a costly product in a situation like this.

Taking ingredients we had from the breakfast menu and whatever we had; we started testing. The result of our testing equaled three different dishes with the same ingredients in different presentations: a Pasta, a Pizza and a Sandwich. The pasta dish and the pizza were liked but didn’t get any wows from our patrons. However, the sandwich, well, that is another story, to this day, our number one best-selling dish, and the reason we cut all our advertising. The Lobster and Bacon sandwich on its own brings the customer to our restaurant.  My best mistake ever,  I call it!

The name says it all, and we don’t even have to hide the main ingredients from anybody.

One time a guy eating at Le Chef looked at me and said, “I know what you did here, I got you! I know why this works! Of course, Lobster, Bacon, Rye, and? What’s in this dressing and the spread on the bread?” I went, ” Oh, maybe you don’t get me, seems you don’t know what I did there. ”

Yes, it has and does work!

We got ourselves our own signature dish, and we are thankful for it. You should definitely come to try our famous “Lobster & Bacon Sandwich,  while you are in Cozumel and it will have you coming back for more!

Pairing: Just about anything, it really doesn’t matter. You will only remember you had a Lobster & Bacon Sandwich at Le Chef Cozumel.

Ramsay´s Summer Night Salmon

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Salmon is a character; some people love it and others don’t like it at all. Personally I believe it is a matter of culture sometimes but many others the final result is totally in the hands of the cook. This is a beautiful product that has a personality and should be treated with a little bit of knowledge and care. If you do so, the outcome is without a doubt a great memory and experience for the guest.

The dish we present today needs a little skill but at the same time its simplicity creates the perfect set and balance. Besides, it came to or menu as a way to pay respect to Chefs that play an important role in modern cuisine.

Green vegetables that normally will go into a fresh salad /Lettuce, cucumber, olives, tomato) are thrown into a pan for a very light sauteing with butter and olive oil. Yes, it  sounds a little odd but believe me, you will be pleasantly surprised.  A sweet tomato sauce softens and melts the fresh of the veggies and the personality of the fish and makes them flow in each other perfectly.

My son came over with this recipe from Gordon Ramsey said we should try.  People loves it. It has introduced and hooked  into Salmon to customers wich had never tasted it before.

Pair with Chardonnay or even with a Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy!

Mahi-Mahi “en Nogada”

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The traditional Chile en Nogada is from Puebla; it is tied to the independence of this country since it is said they were prepared for the first time to entertain the future emperor Agustín de Iturbide when he came to the city after the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba. This dish is a source of pride for the inhabitants of the state of Puebla.[2]

Some Mexican historians believe the inventors of this dish were the Monjas Clarisas, although others think they were the Madres Contemplativas Agustinas of the convent of Santa Mónica, Puebla.

There are dishes that represent countries and its important moments or occasions and this is definitely one that has become a Mexican signature dish. In September our Patriotic month, you can have this dish everywhere. First time for us since our menu is not based on Mexican food.We decided that (no disrespect), we didnt want to go with the flow completely doing what everybody does and we tried to switch the game a little.

We took a Mahi-Mahi fillet, wrapped it in Poblano pepper, soak it in a very light batter and fried it lightly until gently cooked. Once plated, added the Nogada sauce and the Granada seeds. I have to tell you; it came out beautiful. It does pay respects to such an important dish for our Country. Sauvignon Blanc will be our pairing suggestion.

¡Viva Mexico!