Archive for December, 2003

Parrot Cay

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

Need a vacation? How about relaxing on a warm, gorgeous beach and letting the sun wash away the winter blues? Parrot Cay is a wonderful little piece of paradise on a small island off Turks & Caicos. If you are looking for jet skis, a crowded pool or a disco, then this is not your place. Parrot Cay is all about tranquility.

As you fly into Providenciales on Turks & Caicos, a van meets you and takes you to a marina at the eastern end of the island. You take a 35 minute launch ride away from the crowds. Parrot Cay is a private 1,000 acre island. The resort stretches along the beach behind the sand dunes. The buildings are tastefully scattered among the island landscape of gardens and majestic palms. It has 60 rooms, each decorated in a simple but elegant style. With white washed walls, sheer curtains and four-poster beds, the rooms exude a relaxed island feeling. The main rooms have terraces that look through the palm trees out toward either the ocean or over the gardens. There are also ocean suites and villas with plunge pools and up to 3 bedrooms.

The main focus of the resort is the beach and pool, and both are exquisite. The long stretch of beach is pure white, and the sand is as soft as flour. The water is spectacular; it is a glistening shade of turquoise, and is so clear you can see your toes. This water is the perfect antidote for the blazing afternoon sun. The pool, which is an infinity style, overlooks the beach. Chairs are set up around the pool in a horseshoe, all facing the beach. As you lounge by the pool you are brought cool washcloths to freshen up, and in the afternoon an ice pop…truly decadent. Behind the pool is an outdoor restaurant that serves lunch. This restaurant is also open for an informal dinner. The main restaurant is up the hill with a pretty view of the grounds that are covered with palm trees swaying in the wind. The food is good, but not outstanding. Food, however, is rarely the reason to travel to the Caribbean.

The beach and pool make Parrot Cay a lovely getaway, however there are a few other features to make it a true oasis of tranquility. The Shambhala Spa offers massages, facials and a full menu of other treatments. There are also Yoga classes every day, and the occasional visiting Yoga guru. The Spa also offers Pilates classes. There is also a full gym with weights, treadmills and bikes. For the more adventuresome, you can book snorkeling, sailing or bone fishing expeditions. So whether you want to just read a book, walk the beach or be pampered in a spa, Parrot Cay can help you escape the winter blues…for a few days at least.

Wine of the Month: Montepeloso Eneo 2001 ($35)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

Montepeloso is a producer of Super Tuscan wines. Their vineyards are located on a hill near the Tuscan coast just outside the town of Suvereto. Eneo is the entry level wine of the three they produce, and it may be my favorite of all the wines I tasted this year. It is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot and 5% Colorino that is aged in new oak barrels to give it more of a new world style. The wine is a deep red, layered with dark berry fruit, cedar, pepper and spices. The concentrated fruit and tannins are well balanced by acidity resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors. This wine is somewhat limited, but it’s outstanding and worth seeking out.

A Winter Meal

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

Winter has few admirable traits in the northeast; but having a great dinner with friends is certainly a highlight. Put a log in the fireplace, light plenty of candles, and serve a warm, hearty meal. The other day we did just that. The sky was grey, the wind was blowing leaves across the lawn, and the temperature was in the thirties. Cold weather screams for those dishes that cook for hours on the stove, and fill the house with aromas of culinary ecstasy.

We cooked up one of our favorite winter dishes, Braised Pot Roast cooked with carrots and onions, and served over a pile of mashed potatoes. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Nearly 10 years ago I first cooked her Braised Pot Roast. I’ve since added a few carrots and removed a few ingredients. My version of her recipe is below.

Pot Roast, Lamb Stew, and Osso Buco all work well as an all in one pot dish. It allows you to spend time with guests while the pot slowly simmers on the stove. Earlier that day, or even better the day before, you do all the chopping, and make the marinade. Then a few hours before the meal, you brown the meat. This fills the house with great smells, whetting your appetite for that night’s feast. Then everything goes into one pot and cooks for hours. While the food is cooking, it is time to head to the wine cellar. Full bodied reds pair best with these hearty winter dishes. A California Cabernet or a Crozes-Hermitage from the Rhone would be good choices.

Braised Pot Roast recipe:

Marinade ingredients:

  • 1 5lb. rump roast trimmed
  • 1 cup carrot, onion & celery
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 tb. fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tb. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 5 cups red wine (young & fruity)
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • ½ cup olive oil

Cooking ingredients:

  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • 4 oz. bacon rendered
  • 1 ½ tbs. demi-glace
  • 4 to 6 cups beef broth
  • 6 fresh carrots, cut into ½ in. slices
  • 36 small white onions
  • 2 tbs. flour
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  2. Drain the meat for a half-hour before browning, and set oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Add olive oil and rendered bacon to the pot and brown the meat.
  4. Pour marinade around the browned meat, and boil rapidly until reduced by half.
  5. Turn flame to a simmer, add demi-glace and enough beef stock to cover 2/3 of the beef.
  6. Cover pot and place in the oven, turn the beef occasionally, meat will take 2 ½ to 3 hours.
  7. Half hour before meat is done add the carrots.
  8. Cook and brown onions whole in a mixture of water and butter.
  9. Remove cooked meat from pot and wrap in foil, add onions to the pot.
  10. Bring pot to a rapid boil, and add flour to thicken sauce.
  11. Slice meat and return to the pan.
  12. Serve the dish with mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

A Feast for New Year’s

Wednesday, December 24th, 2003

If you’re not heading to Times Square to watch the ball drop, then you may want to stay at home with friends and celebrate in style. One way is to serve a grand entrée such as lobster or a rack of lamb. But another way is to serve platters of great hors d’oeuvres and pair them with champagne or your favorite wine. This makes for a relaxed atmosphere, yet you truly feel like royalty.

For those who do not want to cook all day, caterers can do all the work. Another more economical solution is to order excellent frozen hors d’oeuvres online. A few of the better suppliers are:

  • www.neimanmarcus.com,
  • www.deananddeluca.com, and
  • www.appetizerstogo.com.

However, I prefer to make my own. Below are a few simple appetizers that you can add to your repertoire.

Scallop wrapped in Bacon

  • 20 large sea scallops
  • 20 slices of smoked bacon
  • 40 wooden toothpicks

Cut scallop in half lengthwise. Wrap with half slice of bacon. Secure with a wooden toothpick. Broil on high for 5-7 minutes or until bacon is cooked.

Filet Mignon w/ Horseradish

  • 2 lbs. of filet mignon
  • 2 fresh baguettes
  • Jar of prepared horseradish sauce, Boars Head for example

Grill filet over high heat until rare. Slice filet ¼ inch thick (can be served hot or warm). Slice baguette into ¼ slices and top with a thin coat of horseradish, filet, then add salt & pepper to taste

Salmon w/ Crème Fraiche

  • 1/2 lb. sliced smoked salmon
  • 30 Dufour pastry cups
  • 8 oz. crème fraiche
  • Bunch of fresh dill

Toast pastry cups. Cut salmon into 1 x 1 1/2 in. pieces. Add 1 tsp. crème fraiche to each cup. Curl salmon and place atop the crème fraiche. Season with dill.

Worth seeking out…

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2003
  • DuFour frozen appetizers are an excellent and easy way to entertain, and the Mushroom Truffle Risotto are bite size and extremely tasty. Available in the freezer section of better supermarkets.
  • Since Jacques Torres left Le Cirque, he has opened a chocolate factory in Brooklyn. One item is an absolute must, his tin of Hot Chocolate. Available online at www.jacquestorres.com.
  • Rizzoli just started publishing travel guides; and their first book features the city Florence. This guide goes deeper than the typical top 10 sites by highlighting many hidden jewels. Books on Rome & Venice will be published shortly. Available at most bookstores.