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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Restaurant Gary Danko

I'm not very good at math. But I'm in love with the "formula" of Gary Danko's perfectly executed menu. A little something from column A, a little something from column B. Everything adds up to custom-order happiness.

You have the option of ordering the 5-course tasting menu, which is chef-selected for the season. Or, you can "create" a menu of your own (which is much more fun, in my opinion.)

Here's how it works. The menu has your typical meal components - appetizers, fish/seafood, meat/game and desserts - with plenty of choices under each one. And you can choose ANY 3 things for $69, 4 for $87 or 5 for $102. Which is genius, if you ask me.

Because if you love lobster, you can get 5 rounds of lobster. Or 3 servings of foie gras. Or maybe you just want an all-chocolate, all-cheese meal (you can order two of each.) The beauty of it is that it's all up to you.

MFM and I had a lot of fun constructing our own menus. He went with what I'm calling the Fab Five menu - which included a crispy farm egg (how the heck did they bread a soft-cooked egg?) with polenta, seared scallops with zucchini-basil puree, filet mignon, a visit from the cheese cart, and a lemon souffle cake.

And I went with a (Gwen Stefani-sounding) If I Were A Rich Girl menu which was rich, decadent and totally indulgent: seared foie gras, roasted lobster, pork belly & tenderloin, and a dark chocolate souffle with two sauces for dessert.

Of course your meal is served in course-specific proportions. Meaning, when MFM ordered scallops as a first course, an appetizer-sized dish came to the table - while the lady sitting next to us ordered scallops as her entree and received a much heartier portion.

Personally, I haven't been to too many places with cheese courses, but after reading that Gary Danko had one of the best in the city, MFM decided to order it. Like everything else that evening, the experience was exceptional. The cart is rolled to your table with an imposing selection of over 20 different cheeses. Our server guided us, choosing 5 of his favorites which were served with fruit, bread and nuts.

Everything, from the ambiance to the service to the perfectly executed food felt special. Little touches - like a complimentary amuse bouche and post-dinner plate of mini-sweets added to the specialness of the experience. Plus, everything we tasted was blissfully delicious.

As a bonus, all ladies went home with a treat from the chef for breakfast the next day. I opened it the next morning and found a delicious banana & cream cheese cake. I unwrapped it and made sure to eat it slowly, as if I could make that special experience last just a few moments longer.

I've been to a fair amount of restaurants in the bay area in the last couple of years. Some places I remember the food. Some places I remember the service. But is a place that really has it all and I can't wait to go again.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pani Popo (Samoan Coconut Rolls)

makes 15 small rolls
recipe adapted from A Little Bit of Everything
prep time: 30 min (does not include proofing time) / cook time: 20-22 min

1 1/2 c luke warm milk
1 envelope dry active yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 tbsp butter, softened plus extra for brushing
4 c all-purpose flour
1 can coconut milk (13.5 fl. oz.)
1/4 c sugar

• Mix the lukewarm milk and yeast in a bowl. Leave for a few minutes until the yeast dissolves.
* Milk should be no more than 100
˚ F or it will kill the yeast.
• Add 1 tbsp butter and slowly add the flour.
• Mix until dough cleans itself off the sides of the bowl and forms a smooth bowl.
• Place it into a buttered bowl and leave to rest until doubled in volume, about 45 min.
• When the dough has risen, punch down the dough and make 15 small rolls. Place them in a 13x9" casserole.
* You make 18 rolls and place them in two 8x8" casseroles.
• Let the dough rest again, about 20 minutes.
• Preheat the oven to 375
˚ F.
• While the dough rests, mix the coconut milk with the sugar.
• Pour the sweetened coconut milk over the risen rolls.
• Bake for 20-22 min or until done.

• When mixing the dough, it felt a little dry. I would start off with 3 cups of flour and slowly add more, up to 4 cups.
• I always have trouble getting dough to be smooth because I am terrible at making bread. Ideally you will have smooth dough, which will give you a nice smooth top . . . unlike mines which looks more like a biscuit.
• If your coconut milk is thick due to the coconut cream, heat it up a bit to loosen and mix in sugar.
• The tops of the rolls did not brown evenly nor was it shiny. You might want to consider an egg wash on top of the rolls.


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