BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘duck

The Elusive Peter Chang’s China Grill in Charlottesville

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Cumin lamb, braised bok choy with tofu skin and Guandong-style boneless duck at Peter Chang's China Grill.

I just got a disturbing annual report from WordPress that says I’ve managed to blog all of seven times in the past year. Here’s my 8th attempt at a post, staring down the midnight, here comes ominous Mayan 2012 deadline. 2011, with a turbulent pregnancy, new motherhood and a slow computer clogged with my huge, disorganized audio, photo and video files, somehow got away from me. I commit to do better in 2012. I’ll make baby Theo‘s afternoon naps my new blogging time.

The new year finds us visiting family in Charlottesville, home of the celebrated Peter Chang’s China Grill. The “disappearing chef” himself appears to be staying put in Thomas Jefferson’s university town, where he’s had a continuous run at the former Wild Greens cafe space in the former Barracks Road Shopping Center since March. (Speaking of C’ville restaurant news, did you hear The Tavern, an institution with a questionable food safety record, has closed? I say good riddance.)

Chang’s is known for authenic, hot and numbing Sichuan fare. We’ve eaten there twice and particularly loved his eggplant dishes, spicy dan dan noodles and fragrant, Uighur-inspired cumin lamb. Dining at the restaurant this trip, we had eggplant deliciously dry-fried with no residual grease, like crisp French fries. The numbing Sichuan peppercorns atop make it too hot for some. We had our favorite tender cumin lamb. And I wanted to try a duck dish. The smoked duck at the neighboring table was temptingly served Beijing kaoya-style, but with fluffly baozi-style buns (think David Chang’s unctuous pork belly buns) instead of bland pancakes. But the neighbors said to order sweet Guandong duck instead so we did. It had a pleasant, if unspectacular, sweet-and-sour sauce. The rectangles of fried duck were boneless, which made for smoother eating. And we started with Shanghai-style scallion pancakes, a nostalgic taste of China for me. Except they were unusually puffed up like Indian pooris. I once made Eileen Yin-Fei Lo’s pancake recipe, with lard, but my technique needs perfecting. Here’s to making more Chinese scallion pancakes in the new year, as I post this just as the clock strikes midnight!

Scallion pancakes puffed up like poori at Peter Chang's.


Written by baltimoregon

December 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Wasted Wild Duck

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The hunter hadn't even removed the guts or head

Unfortunately the tiny breast had already atrophied.

But of course we’d want a hunter’s spare wild duck, I said, as visions of the seared red breast, with a crisp layer of fat, danced in my head. But this was not your standard Long Island duck. This was a small wild one (maybe a wigeon), feathers and all. Apparently the breast is the only part worth cooking and rather than pluck each feather, you’re just advised to pull off the feathered skin in one piece,  like a glove (I hear you do rabbits the same way). This was the duck Dan had smoked on his fly-out here that so enchanted me.

We tried to cut it up, though something wasn’t right. The breast seemed to have started to decay, with some sort of necrosis. I heard you were supposed to gut game right away, so perhaps the intact insides contributed to the problem? I flipped out. Granted, we had the hairy waterfowl in the fridge a day or two before tackling it, so maybe that was the problem? It felt ominous to have the feathered friend in the fridge. Why did this bother me when I handled (with assistance, of course) the turkey at Afton Field Farm with no problem?

I feel guilty we failed. It was a tiny bird, but it especially feels bad to waste food when people are starving and scrambling to survive in Haiti. In fact, just thinking and writing about food has felt vacuous and out-of-touch this week with all that suffering there. And of course, the situation was dire there far before this tragedy. But it’s not until catastrophe forces a neglected nation into the news that we remember those people subsisting on dirt and less than $2 a day. I keep thinking of the Haitian Women’s Program folks I befriended in Flatbush while reporting on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean community. We’ve made our donations to Doctors Without Borders and Portland-based Mercy Corps. Shouldn’t we do more? We’re at least trying to be thankful for each precious meal.

Written by baltimoregon

January 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

April’s at Nye Beach in Newport

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Duck breast with currants at April's.

Duck breast with currants at April's.

I’ve realized there was a glaring omission in my review of where to eat in Newport, on the Oregon coast. Somehow I managed to overlook foodie favorite April’s at Nye Beach. But then I realized why: the restaurant shutters each January and that’s when I did my dining for the reviews. So this week I finally had a chance to eat at April’s.

While not paradigm-shifting in the vein of Portland’s most inventive spots, April’s is a reliable, elegant and warm restaurant. The servers are gracious and the food is local and good. Pacific Northwest seafood is well-represented on the contemporary Italian menu, which also features ultra-local produce from the chef-owner’s garden in nearby Toledo. My duck breast was succulent and the salmon panzanella was a fresh and unusual presentation.

For fine dining in Newport, there is also the more cosmopolitan Saffron Salmon and perhaps more affordable Panache. Most days, we’d prefer Cafe Mundo‘s earthier, more informal scene. Of course when Dungeness crab is in season, that’s the way to go, the less adorned the presentation, the better.

Written by baltimoregon

September 13, 2009 at 2:07 am

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