Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Valentine's Day means different things to different people. Sure, it's a Hallmark holiday, but for many it is a chance to appreciate their significant other by spending time with them rather than a forced showering of gifts. While still a part of that commercial aspect, we chefs spend the day apart from our loved ones toiling away for that lover's feast, trying our best to make up for that fact with sultry menus filled with enticing ingredients. I, of course, take it a step further.

I expanded the theme idea that I used on New Year's Eve for this Valentine's Day menu by developing dishes that contain aphrodisiac ingredients; some are more known like oysters and chocolate, as well as the less familiar basil, tomatoes and red meat. Here is what I came up with:
One dish in particular has a special meaning for me, so I'm going to offer it all week... and I am dedicating it to my beautiful wife, Anna, because the dish was actually inspired by her: the New York strip steak.

As sometimes happens, I stumbled upon this flavor combination by chance when I was trying to make a healthy yet flavorful meal for Anna while experimenting with some new ingredients. She loves roasted yams, and grapefruit is one of the few fruits in season right now, so I combined them as a sort of salad with a roasted chicken breast cutlet that had been marinated in soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and gochujang, a Korean fermented chili paste that has a sweet, sour salty and spicy taste that I have fell in love with since being introduced to it by my friend and colleague, Tommy Lee (now of Elemental Food Design, but still Korean, he, he!), and continue to enjoy at our neighbor's restaurant, Kimchi Bistro.

Those flavor combinations really popped so I conjured a restaurant version of it, but instead of a chicken breast I went with a thick cut New York Strip steak not only for aphrodisiac purposes (see the menu notes) but also to represent my NYC born-and-raised wife. I modified the marinade into a sauce that also includes ginger, garlic, scallion, beef stock and a Korean fermented soybean paste similar to Japan's miso, along with the original recipe's ingredients of chili paste, rice vinegar, sweet soy sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil. I kept the yam-grapefruit salad simple by roasting garnet yams, which are sweeter, to pair with the sweet and sour of the ruby red grapefruit segments, and then garnished the plate with steamed baby artichoke hearts, because even after a menu like that I still like to show how clever I am :)!!
I know what you may be thinking, and we heard a lot of it on Tuesday night: "Yams with grapefruit!?!", but once you taste it, you will understand the true meaning of love.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Once I came up with the Pomegranate Margarita a few weeks back I knew what I wanted to do for this week's drink special, since it consists of two great aphrodisiacs: sparkling wine and pomegranate.

Even though some believe that pomegranate was actually the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, scientifically speaking it contains a long list of chemical compounds to get you in the mood, such as Vitamin C, alkaloids, and various minerals, but the truth is: we just want to get drunk and get down to the dirty!!!

So to facilitate that I made a "mimosa" by first combining three forms of pomegranate: juice, schnapps and molasses with some of our tasty brut cava from Spain. It is both refreshing and intoxicating - just like a good lover should be!!!

With (Extra) Love,