Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Friends & Delicious Food at Mattison's 41

Last night, we enjoyed a delightful meal with good friends at Mattison's 41 in Sarasota. The occasion was to welcome friends M & J back from Maryland. The get-together was suggested and arranged by our friend D. It doesn't get any better than enjoying the company of these great people at a delicious meal.

Mattison's 41 ( is one of two restaurants operated by superb chef, Paul Mattison. We have dined there at least three times and have always enjoyed our meals.

We have also enjoyed dining at his other restaurant, Mattison's City Grille. On top of that, we have had delicious meals at two other restaurants he has operated, including one called the Summerhouse on Siesta Key. The Summerhouse not only offered excellent food, but the atmosphere was great. Unfortunately, it was sold and replaced with a condo complex.

Last night, my wife and I each had a 3-course "Savor Sarasota" meal for $25 each - a great bargain for a terrific meal.

We had the following:

First course
My wife had a Caesar salad.
I had a delicious dish of hot, flash-fried calamari with two nice sauces - Asian soy mustard and sweet Thai chili.

Main Course
My wife had sea scallops with lobster-potato cannellonis, green beans, and lobster cream.
I had a fregola pasta seafood stew with mussels, shrimp, fish, and tomato-fennel broth. Fregola is a tiny, round pasta of Sardinian origin. The dish was fantastic.

My wife had chocolate torte.
My incredible dessert was a bread pudding with roasted pear, wildflower honey, and cream croissant.

Our wine was  2009 Perrin & Fils Côtes du Rhône made from 50% syrah and 50% grenache for only $28. It was very pleasant.

Mattison's 41 is located at 7275 South tamiami Trail (US 41), Sarasota
Phone 941-921-3400.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Tartiflette-Centered Dinner

When I was in France with my grandchildren last June, one of the dishes we discovered and enjoyed was tartiflette - a delicious mixture of cheese, bacon, onions, and potatoes. (My grandaughter did have one version which she did not like because it was watery). I decided to try making it for a family dinner last night. My wife and I were joined by our son and his family, including the grandchildren with whom I had gone to Paris, and by our daughter. Our grandchildren joined me in preparing the dinner. It was very easy to prepare and we were happy with the results.

The menu was:
- salad
- tartiflette
- baguettes from Ooh La La French Bakery
- apple pie (tarte aux pommes) from the same bakery.

The salad was a lettuce salad with cucumber slices, orange slices, strawberries, and double gloucester cheese chunks. The grandchildren decided on the ingredients.

Tartiflette ( is a dish from the Haut Savoie area of France.

I found a number of tartiflette recipes on the Internet, including youTube videos demonstrating how to prepare it. The recipe I chose was from - It had been submitted by an American woman living in Paris and it had a number of favorable reviews.

One problem in preparing the recipe in the U.S. is that reblochon cheese (, the cheese normally used for this dish, is unavailable in the U.S. I asked a cheese expert at Morton's, a local gourmet supermarket, if he could suggest a close alternative. He first suggested Prefere de Nos Montagnes. However, he did not have as much as I needed. As a second choice, he suggested Fromager d'Affinois - a very soft ewe's milk cheese. It worked very well. It had a bit of a strong smell prior to cooking, but blended nicely with the other ingredients once it was cooked.

I doubled the following recipe. The web site recalculates the amount of ingredients depending on the number of servings you choose. Below is the original recipe for 4 servings.

  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced (I used medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes)
  • 7 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche (creme fraiche can be purchased at the supermarket or can be made easily)
  • 1 (8 ounce) round Reblochon cheese
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for a minute or two.
  2. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
  3. Stir-fry bacon in a skillet over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Remove bacon; pour off bacon fat. In the same skillet, melt the butter, add onions, and cook and stir until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan, add the wine, and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  4. Place 1/2 of the potatoes into the prepared dish; then spread 1/2 of the bacon mixture over the potatoes. Layer in the remaining potatoes, then spread the creme fraiche over them. Add the remaining half of the bacon mixture. Cut the rind from the Reblochon, cut it into thin slices, and layer the slices evenly over the top of the casserole.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted and a bit brown, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.
As usual, everything from Ooh La La Bakery was great. I ordered the tarte 2 days earlier. It was available in several sizes.

Although tartiflette is normally served with white wine, we all prefer red, so I served two reds, both of which I enjoy and both of which cost about $10-$11 per bottle:
- Bouchard Aine & Fils 2009 Pinot Noir from Morton's
- Cantina Lanzavecchia 2010 Cren della Lepre Barbera Piemonte from Total Wine

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Dinner Treat from Chef P

Last Saturday evening, L & P, who are friends and neighbors, invited us and friends K & G, and P & G to dinner to celebrate the birthday of K's husband, G. The host, P, prepared one of his typical "chefisticated" dinners. Every bite was terrific.

The menu

1. Appetizers
- Dark rye canapés with boursin cheese spread, topped with thinly sliced radishes and garnished with chives
- Hothouse cucumbers sliced on a bias, piped dill herbed cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon, garnished with capers and fresh dill.
- Green & Kalamata Olives 
The appetizers were accompanied by Korbel Rosé California Champagne
2. Main Course and Side Dishes
- Beef Burgundy
- Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs
- Zucchini Gratin
- Baguettes from Ooh La La French Bakery
The main course was accopanied by two wines
- 2005 Château de Chamirey AOC Mercurey Premier Cru Burgundy (100% pinot noir) - a Burgundy wine to accompany Beef Burgundy
- 2007 Les Hauts du Fief Cave de Tain Crozes-Hermitages (100% syrah)
3. Dessert
- Symphonie cake from Ooh La La
The foods were fantastic and the wines were excellent.
Recipes and Comments on the Main Dishes and the Sides
Chef P. obtained all of the recipes below from I have used five recipes from that site, and loved them all.
1. Beef Burgundy
This is a classic French dish, which is called Boeuf Bourguignon in French. It is sometimes called, Beef Bourguignon - using one English word and one French word.
When I was in France in June, I had Beef Burgundy several times. Chef P's was far superior. One of several reasons is that he used a superior cut of beef - beef tenderloin.
The recipe he used was a recipe by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. It is a 5-star recipe from - Interestingly, Ina Garten has another 5-star Beef Burgundy recipe on -
2. Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs
Chef P. obtained this wonderful Giada de Laurentiis recipe from as well -
Chef P provided me with the following comments about how he prepared this recipe:
I put the oil, 5 cloves of smashed garlic cloves in a large baggie with 2 tablespoons of herbs de Provence the day before baking and let it season in the refrigerator, then, next day,  threw the potatoes in it to coat and spread them out on a baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper (not too much). Portioned 40 potatoes for 8 people, had 5 or so left over. = 1.5 pounds of potatoes. I roasted the potatoes for 40 minutes total, turned them at 20 minutes. I removed the garlic before cooking since it is possible to burn chopped garlic which could turn bitter. Anyway, 40 minutes at 400 degrees is plenty.  I did not drizzle with any additional oil after cooking, although a pinch of herbs over the top would look nice.

3. Zucchini Gratin
This was another Ina Garten recipe from -
Chef P told me the following about his experience preparing this recipe:
I cooked the gratin the night before and the gratin veggies were firm to the bite. When I reheated them (for 20 minutes after having turned the potatoes) they got overcooked (mushy) , even though still flavorful. Doing it again, I would take the gratin recipe through covering it with the bread crumbs and cheese, refrigerate, then cook along with the potatoes just before dinner. If you are doing this all the same day then it does not matter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sharing Another Italian Dinner with Friends

Last night, I enjoyed preparing another Italian dinner for friends. This time our dinner partners were K & G who recently moved back to the U.S. after a great assignment in Europe.) I tried a couple of new items and a couple of reliable dishes I love. We also had a couple of very nice wines.

The menu was:
Pepper & Goat Cheese Crostini
& Crostini with Olive Paté
2005 Redi Briareo Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Fig, Prosciutto, & Salami Salad
Veal Marsala
1999 Pio Cesare Barolo
Carrots with Pancetta (Carote in Stufato)
Turin Terrine (Dolce Torinese)

I had not made either of the crostini before. Both were delicious and easy to make. I had not made the terrine either. It was delicious, but involved a bit of work.

An important component of good crostini is the right bread. I knew I could get a good baguette at Ooo La La French bakery, but that was a bit of a drive. I also know that Publix baguettes are a very poor choice. I decided to try Fresh Market. They have two types of baguettes - their regular baguette and an "artisanal baguette." I decided to try the artisinal baguette. It worked very nicely.

(Publix baguettes share only two attributes with the real thing - the name and the shape. The taste and consistency are completely different.)

Below are the recipes for the new dishes I tried:


For both types of crostini, I:
- coated both sides of the bread with olive oil
- baked the bread in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes
- coated one side of the bread with garlic after taking the bread out of the over.

Olive Paté
This dish was really easy to make. I prepared it the previous evening and kept it in the refrigerator.

In addition to spreading this mix on toast, the web site where I found the recipe says that it can be used as a pasta sauce. The web site also says it can be kept in the refrigerator for a month.

- 1/2 lb of black olives. I used canned, pitted olives.
- 1/2 lemon
- 4-5 Tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
(The web site also lists 4 Tbsps of butter, but does not explain how to use it. It seemed irrelevant to me.)

Pit the olives if they are not pitted. Then chop them very finely.

Add to the olives - the juice of half a lemon and the grated peel of half a lemon.

Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

If not using the mixture immediately, put it into a sealed jar and refrigerate.

Roast Peppers & Goat Cheese Canapés (Crostini di Peperoni)
This recipe is delicious and easy. It's from:

I have modified the wording slightly to match what I did.

It serves 6.

A couple of small sweet peppers, preferably one red, one yellow
2 cloves of garlic
Parsley or Basil
Goat cheese - I used soft, spreadable Chavrie cheese from Publix. It comes in a small container. There are two versions. One is plain and the other contains basil and roasted garlic. I used the latter. The original recipe calls for slices of goat cheese.

- Roast or grill the peppers. Put them in a plastic or paper bag, or a closed container to cool, and let them “sweat”  for a couple of minutes. They will be much easier to peel.
- Peel and deseed the peppers. Then cut them into fine strips.
- Dress the pepper strips with salt, pepper, and a little raw finely chopped garlic (optional) good olive oil and fresh basil and/or parsley. Leave a little while to marinate.
- Top the bread with a little slice goat cheese and pepper strips. If you use baguette slices rather than something larger, cut the pepper strips in half or thirds so they will fit on the bread.

Chocolate Terrine from Turin (Dolce Torinese)

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • 16 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tbs caster sugar - can be made by by blending regular sugar in a blender for 1-2 minutes (Caster sugar is superfine sugar. I ran regular sugar through a mini food processor. It worked fine.)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups almond slivers
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 12 butter cookies or Vanilla Wafers  (I used Vanilla Wafers.)
  • confectioners sugar for decoration (I forgot this ingredient.)
  • whipped cream (optional) - I used the whipped cream.
  • berries (optional) - I used raspberries.
  1. Lightly grease a loaf shaped pan.
  2. In a double boiler melt the chocolate over low heat.
  3. When the chocolate is dissolved stir in the rum and remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar by beating until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the egg yolks and beat in one-at-a-time.
  6. Stir in the almonds and cooled chocolate.
  7. In a separate bowl beat the egg whiles and salt until the whites are stiff enough to begin to form peaks. Test by dipping the beaters into the egg whites and pulling them up. Do the whites form little peaks?
  8. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula. Mix gently but thoroughly. There should be no white showing.
  9. Break up the cookies into 1/2" x 1/2" size pieces.
  10. Fold the cookies into the chocolate mixture.
  11. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the loaf pan. Spread it evenly and smooth the top.
  12. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
  13. Unmold an hour before serving by running a knife around the sides of the pan and dip the bottom into hot water for a few seconds. Place a chilled serving dish upside down over the pan and, holding the pan in place, flipping the plate and pan over. The terrine should slide out. If it doesn't slide out rap the plate on the counter. (An option is to use a springform loaf pan.)
  14. You can smooth the top and sides with a warm metal spatula. Simply run the spatula under hot water and then smooth the terrine.
  15. Return to the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  16. Just before serving sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top.
  17. Cut the terrine into thin slices and serve, if desired, with whipped cream and berries.

 The Wines

- K & G brought us a very nice Redi Briareo 2005 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, produced by Vecchia Cantina. They had visited Montepulciano in March and we had been there in October 2010. We enjoyed this wine with our crostini and salad.
- For the main course, I served a 1999 Pio Cesare Barolo. It was very nice.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Always Tasty Thai at Bangkok, Sarasota

Last night, my wife, our grandchildren, and I had a Thai dinner at Bangkok restaurant in Sarasota. (

The food is always wonderful at Bangkok, and the atmosphere is very nice. Since it is very popular, I recommend reservations.

Everyone except me had one course. I also had soup.

The soup I chose was a cup of Tom Kha: two shrimp simmered in coconut broth with lime, straw mushrooms, mild yellow onions, sweet bell peppers, lemon grass, galanga root, scallions and magrut leaves. It was fantastic as always.

My grandaughter had her usual Bangkok entrée - Pad Thai Tofu: Thin rice noodles stir-fried with firm tofu, egg, fresh crisp bean sprouts, crushed roasted peanuts and green onions. She loved it. It was $10.49.

My grandson had chicken satay with steamded rice and two sauces for $6.49. He enjoyed it.

My wife really enjoyed her shrimp Pad Khing - Stiry fry flavored with sliced fresh ginger root, mild yellow onions and green onions, sweet red and green bell peppers, crisp carrots, and black mushrooms. It was $12.49.

I loved my Untouchable Fried Rice - Steamed Jasmine rice stir-fried with eggs, mild yellow onions and green onions, baby green peas, baby carrots, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves all tossed with a blend of Thai herbs and spices, topped with cool cucumber slices. It was $10.49.

Our wine was one we usually order at Bangkok because it goes well with Thai food - 2009 Neil Ellis South African Sauvignon Blanc for $26.

Address: 4791 Swift Road
Phone: 941-922-0703

A Kansas Dinner, But Missing the Guest of Honor

Last Saturday evening, I prepared a meal which I hoped might be a treat for a friend who will have an operation in a few days. Unfortunately, my friend and his lovely wife had to cancel at the last minute due to a medical problem.

However, we were joined by my sweet sister.

The meal I made had a Kansas focus because the guest of honor is from Kansas. I prepared four dishes:
- Grilled porterhouse steaks with Dad's Steak Rub - a maple syrup rub
- Kansas Baked Beans
- Kansas Spoon Bread
- Plum Pie

The dishes were all very tasty, and I would make them again. The baked beans are so good, I'll never try any other baked-bean recipe. I was surprised at how delicious the steaks were with the maple rub. The plum pie was terrific.

The recipes are:

Kansas Baked Beans

Prep time - 15 Min
Ready In:1 Hr 25 Min
Servings  8
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup barbeque sauce
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans pork and beans
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon, ground beef, and onion in the skillet until the bacon and ground beef are completely browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain any excess fat, and transfer to a casserole dish.
  3. Stir the white sugar, brown sugar, ketchup, barbeque sauce, mustard, molasses, chili powder, and black pepper together in a bowl; pour over the bacon mixture. Add the kidney beans, butter beans, and pork and beans; mix thoroughly.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the liquid thickens, about 1 hour.

Dad’s Steak Rub

Prep time - 15 min, cook time - 15 min, serves 4

  • 4 beef steaks
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the grill for high heat.
  2. Place the steaks in a bowl, and drizzle on both sides with maple syrup. Rub with garlic, seasoned salt, and pepper.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place steaks on the grill, and cook 7 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.

Spoon Bread

1qt milk
1 cup corn meal
1 1/2 t salt
2 T butter
4 eggs

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees F.  Heat milk and gradually stir in corn meal mixed
with salt.  Cook, stiring, until smooth and thick.  Cover, cook until mushy.
Add butter.

Mean while, in another bowl mix the eggs until well
blended. Then stir slowly into the mush. 

Pour into a well greased 1 1/2 qt bowl and bake uncovered at 425 degrees
for 50 to 55 minutes.  Serve immediately, with lots of butter. 

Plum Pie
(I modified the recipe by adding a half pint of blueberries - after reading reviews in which other cooks had done the same thing. The plums I chose were dark, sweet plums, rather than lighter- colored tart plums. It's important to make sure the plums are firm.)

Prep time - 20 min, cook time - 50 min, serves 8
  • 4 cups sliced fresh plums
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pastry shell
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter or margarine
  1. In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients; pour into the pastry shell. For topping, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl; cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over filling. Bake at 375 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Cover edges of crust during the last 20 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Another Epicurean Delight at Michael's

Last Saturday evening, 40 members of our wine club enjoyed another delightful private "Epicurean Adventure" dinner in the Tasting Room of Michael's on East. The atmosphere in the candlelit room was very warm and inviting. The theme of the Epicurean Adventure dinners this month is Thai. As usual, the food was superb.

The only down side of the evening was that the service was slow - an experience I've never had at Michael's. The reason may have been that they were short of servers. The two servers who took care of us were professional and friendly.

The prix-fixe meal, which cost us $25, included three courses - appetizer, main course, and dessert. There were two appetizer choices, three entrée choices, and two dessert choices. For an additional $10, there was a pairing of two wines - one with the appetizer and one with the main course. Additionally, we were served a free glass of wine with the meal before it started and a free amuse-bouche.

(The Epicurean dinner prices have now been raised to $29.95, which is still a super price.)

As an appetizer, I chose Satay gai - chicken satay, lettuce wrap, peanut sauce, and crisp tara ribbons (whatever they are). It was really good. I love satay!

The other appetizer choice was Thot Man Pia -swordfish & seabass fishcake with sweet chili sauce and cucumber salad.

As a main course, I chose Tom Yum Ta Ke - hot & sour shrimp soup, with kaffir lime leaf, ginger mushroom broth, & spicy rice noodles. It was terrific. The shrimp were large and very tasty.

The other entrées were:
- Yang gai - tamarind coconut barbecue chicken, papaya slaw, crushed peanuts & fresh mint cilantro with sweet sticky rice.
- Soyang Poo Salmon - pan-seared lemongrass-honey salmon with mussels & vegetable stew

As a dessert, I chose Banana lemongrass & brown sugar springroll with toast coconut ice cream. It was delightful.

The other dessert was mango rice pudding with black sesame cookie.

The other wine club members with whom I spoke all enjoyed their meals.

The wine pairings were
- with the amuse-bouche - Michael's private label pinot grigio
- with the appetizer - 2010 Doña Paula "Los Cardos" Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina
- with the entrée - 2009 Doña Paula "Los Cardos" Malbec

All of the wines were very nice. I'm not normally fond of Malbecs, but this one was nice once it opened up a bit.

The themes of the Epicurean Adventure dinners for the remainder of the year are:
October - South Africa
November - Italy
December - Spain