Eggs Benedict: Best Invention Ever.

ebenny

God, I love Eggs Benedict.  I completely hate poached eggs in any other incarnation, but when they are nestled atop a toasted english muffin with Canadian bacon and the perfect Hollandaise sauce – pure heaven!  I think I first fell for the Benedict in college when I dated a guy that worked at the Pour la France chain in Aspen where they had three or four different benedicts on the menu.  I used to sit at the bar and get them for free, so I ate one practically every day he was working. (I also discovered the Mimosa this way.)  My favorite was the Veggie Benedict, which was avocado & tomato instead of bacon. The guy was a total tool – I think I kept on seeing him because I enjoyed the free Benedicts.  Yes, I was an Eggs Benedict Whore.

Anyway, my love affair with the Eggs Benedict has endured long past my days in Aspen.  When you get a really good Eggs Benedict, there is nothing better.  When you get a bad Eggs Benedict, there is nothing worse.  The best Eggs Benedict I have ever had was at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.   The secret to great Eggs Benedict really lies in the Hollandaise, an unforgiving sauce that you must make from scratch – anything in a bottle is nothing short of an abomination.  I have had the best luck with the basic Hollandaise found in the eponymous Mastering the Art of French Cooking from one Julia Child.  I have included her sauce below, along with her recipe for classic Eggs Benedict.

 

 
FOR THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice or more, if needed
6 to 8 ounces very soft unsalted butter
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper

FOR POACHED EGGS
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar per 2 quarts water
4 large eggs, the fresher the better

FOR THE EGGS BENEDICT
4 slices English-muffin halves
Butter
4 thin slices Canadian bacon
Thin slices of black truffle (optional)
warm poached eggs
1 cup Hollandaise Sauce

MAKE THE HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

  1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in the saucepan for a few moments, until thick and pale (this prepares them for what is to come).
  2.  Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at reasonable speed, reaching all over the bottom and insides of the pan, where the eggs tend to overcook. To moderate the heat, frequently move the pan off the burner for a few seconds, and then back on. (If, by chance, the eggs seem to be cooking too fast, set the pan in the bowl of cold water to cool the bottom, then continue.) As they cook, the eggs will become frothy and increase in volume, and then thicken. When you can see the pan bottom through the streaks of the whisk and the eggs are thick and smooth, remove from the heat.
  3. By spoonfuls, add the soft butter, whisking constantly to incorporate each addition. As the emulsion forms, you may add the butter in slightly larger amounts, always whisking until fully absorbed. Continue incorporating butter until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you want.
  4.  Season lightly with salt and a dash of cayenne pepper, whisking in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding droplets of lemon juice if needed. Serve lukewarm.

POACH THE EGGS

  1. Fill the pan with water to a depth of 2 inches or so, add the vinegar, and bring to a slow boil.
  2. Rapidly crack and open each egg into the water, holding the shell as close to the surface as possible. The eggs will cool the water; adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. After a few moments, when the whites have just begun to set, drag the back of the slotted spoon gently across the top of the eggs, to move them off the pan bottom so they don’t stick. Cook the eggs for about 4 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.
  3. To test for doneness, lift 1 egg from the water with the slotted spoon and press both white and yolk. The whites should feel fully set but not too firm, and the yolks very soft. Poach longer for firmer eggs.
  4. When set the way you like them, remove the eggs from the saucepan with the slotted spoon or strainer and immerse them in a bowl of warm tap water to wash off the vinegar. Set the spoon on a clean towel (or folded paper towels) for a moment to remove excess water, and serve eggs immediately.

ASSEMBLE THE EGGS BENEDICT

  1. Just before serving, toast the bread circles or muffins lightly, butter both sides, and warm the ham and the optional truffle slices in a frying pan with a tablespoon of butter.
  2. Center a toast round on each warm serving plate; cover with a slice of ham and then a poached egg. Spoon hollandaise sauce generously over each egg and top with an optional warm truffle slice. Serve immediately.

A Moment of Silence for My Vintage Cookbook Collection

So we had a leak due to some dumbass that came to perform “maintenance” on our appliances.  He managed to crimp the line and then leave the power on an icemaker that hasn’t worked in two years, so the water from the icemaker line leaked through the ceiling down to our butler’s kitchen where I keep all my vintage cookbooks.  Needless to say, most of them are completely ruined.  I was going to take a picture, but it makes me too sad.

Thanks a lot, asswipe.  I’m still pondering whether I should post your name out here for all to see.

Tales of a Graphic Designer: The Clueless Client

oo

I’m very busy today trying to play catch up after basically languishing in my bed since last Friday.  But, I had to get a little annoyance off my chest about what I do for a living.  Please, read and repeat:

Dear Client:

WEB GRAPHICS AND PRINT GRAPHICS ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Yes, I know it looks fine on the screen, but it is not for professional printing, dumbass.  I can’t just take the web graphic file and “go and print that.”  It doesn’t work that way.  I have to create a new graphic for you for print purposes.  I have explained this to you numerous times, but it doesn’t seem to ever sink in.  Here’s a big designer secret: To make it a print file, I have to make it high-resolution, which are not web graphics, which are low resolution.  (Except for those douchebags that place high-res graphics on their website thinking they are “better” because they are “bigger.”  Actually, they are just a waste of space.)  

It’s knowing these things why I get paid for my “easy” job and you do not.

 – Your Graphic Desinger

Just when I think I will lose it, I go to one of my favorite old sites, The Web Design Client Quote site, where frustrated designers post the dumbest comments from their idiot clients.  Makes me feel slightly better.

Back to work….

Sick as a Dog

I’m out for a few days as I have been living in my bed, hacking up a lung every two to five minutes or so.  As soon as I feel human again, I will be back…

 Maybe it was the Irish Nachos.

St. Patrick’s Day Miracle!

wec

Okay, before I tell my St. Patrick’s Day Miracle story, I need to talk about something.  On St. Patrick’s day we went to an Irish Pub in a neighboring town to soak up some true Irish atmosphere and have some traditional Irish food to celebrate the day in the way that God intended.  So, we sit down at the pub and they have a “special” Irish menu just for the day.  I see all the regulars: corned beef & cabbage, fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, etc. etc.  Then, about 1/3 way down the page I see this:

Irish Nachos $9
A large pile of tortilla chips fried crisp and topped with homemade chili, melted cheese, diced tomato, scallions and jalapenos served with sour cream and salsa.

WTF is Irish about any of that?   Just because it’s St. Patrick’s Day and you put the word Irish in front of something doesn’t make it fucking Irish, now does it?  What’s next, Irish Ravioli?  Irish Borscht? Irish Matzo Ball Soup?  You’re a fucking Irish Pub – you know what you are doing is sacrilege. Okay, had to get that off my chest.  Now, back to the Miracle!

So later on in the day we had stopped by a friend’s house so he could feed his dogs and then we were going back out on our St. Patrick’s pub crawl.  We hang around the house for awhile, then someone opens a beer, so I figure I might as well have a rum & diet before we leave.  I’m hanging in the garage (some of the people were smoking and there is no smoking in the house) and I leave to go to the bathroom that is right next to the garage door, as I have been in this house many times before and knew where the bathroom was.  Or, so I thought.

The door was closed and the lights were off, so I open the door and step in… into a stairwell that goes down to the basement!   Yes, I picked the wrong door (it was the second door on the right, not the first) and went right down the stairs into the dark stairwell à la Wile E. Coyote.  The next thing I know I am crumpled up at the bottom of the stairs and everyone comes running to see if I am okay.  Not only was I completely fine, but I didn’t spill my drink. Yes, folks – my rum & diet was still in my hand and it had not spilled.  No one, including myself could believe it nor figure out how on earth it could have happened.  Now if this doesn’t constitute a miracle, I don’t know what does.

Thanks, St. Patrick!

The Tale of the Smuggled Plunger

plunger

Yes – this is the bathroom in my hotel room in New York last week.  And that, my friends, is my new plunger.

Yes, I had to buy a plunger while I was in New York.  Why?  Well, let’s just say that one of my talents is to plug up toilets everywhere.  So, I completely clog this particular toilet and also manage to flush it one too many times so that it overflows all over the floor.  I am now panicked and not sure what to do.  So, I shut the bathroom door and watch TV for an hour, hoping that it will “fix itself.”  It doesn’t.

I suck it up and call the front desk to ask for a plunger.  I am very agile with plungers because I get to use them at home all the time thanks to my little talent.  I tell the lady at the front desk that I am having a small bathroom problem and I just need someone to bring up a plunger.  She says, “I’ll send the engineer right up!”  Now I really panic.  Under no circumstances can I let some stranger into my bathroom and see what I have done!  It’s just too embarrassing and this is a small boutique hotel.

So, the guy shows up and I open the door and explain that he cannot come in, but I just need the plunger. He looks completely confused.  I can tell that I am probably the first person who wants to unplug my own toilet.  He says, “Are you sure?”  I say yes, that I just need the plunger, thank you.  He looks at me funny as he hands over a bag and then says that he’ll be there in the hall and wait for it.  He won’t leave me alone to do my job – he’s going to sit outside while I do it!  And, to top off my absolute humiliation, I realize as I take out the plunger that it’s some weird plunger that I have never seen before, and therefore I can’t get it to work:

etf

I try to use it for a few minutes to no avail – it just simply splashes the mess all over the place.  I’m freaking out because I know the guy is just sitting there outside my door, waiting.  I give up and give him back the plunger and pretend it worked.  “Thanks!” I beam as I hand him the bag.  “Everything OK?” he looks suspicious.  “Great!” I smile with terror in my eyes and shut the door in his face.  Now what the fuck am I going to do?

There’s no way I can possibly call them again – I’m just too embarrassed.  No, I must take care of this myself. So, I got dressed, checked my iPhone for the closest Duane Reade (kind of a NYC Walgreens) and prayed they would have a plunger.  Turns out that there is a Duane Reade  a few blocks away, and they do indeed carry plungers – and it’s only $5!  I buy it and realize about halfway back that I will have to somehow get the plunger up to my room while walking past the doormen and the front desk as it completely sticks out from the bag.  Did I mention this is a small boutique hotel?

So, about a block from the hotel I stick the end of the plunger down the leg of my jeans and hide the plunger under my coat.  I look like I am about 6 months pregnant and can’t bend my knee properly.  I lurch up the stairs to the front desk and notice a few cursory glances in my direction.  I realize that this kind of thing could only happen to me.  Yes, I smuggled a plunger up to my room.

A few minutes later my problem is solved, the mess is cleaned up and I disassemble the plunger and put it in my suitcase to check and take home.  Luckily the TSA did not open my bag – I’m sure they don’t see a lot of plungers in suitcases too often. 

I am an idiot.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

222

 Of course I am an aficiando – what’s not to love?  A holiday where drinking is not only tolerated, but mandatory? Taking the day off to celebrate in the true Irish fashion.

When I return:  The story of my New York trip and why I had to sneak a plunger into certain facilities.

Sláinte!

I’m Off to a Reality Show Venture

gr

No, not for me!  But I am off to NYC for a couple of days to go to some business meetings with my husband.  And, it just so happens that we are staying in the hotel run by one Mr. Simon Van Kampen of Real Housewives of NYC fame.  Add to that a nice dinner for Thursday at Gordon Ramsay’s (Hell’s Kitchen) restaurant (no, not the fancy-schmancy one) and probably a sandwich thrown in from Tom Colicchio’s (Top Chef) shop and I will have had a totally fake/real few days.  Keep you posted.

(Yes, I am a dork.)

Oh, and I really just wanted an excuse to post a picture of Chef Ramsay, as I think he’s kinda hot.  He may have to go on The List.

Nacho Underpants has Twitter

twat

I don’t know why – I really don’t get the whole Twitter thing.  Why do I care if somebody from my sorority had peanut butter toast for breakfast or that Martha Stewart is at the airport?  But, I used to say that about Facebook and then I got somewhat addicted.  At least on Facebook I can laugh at the bitch in high school who works at SuperCuts or stalk the exes of my friends while they do the same for me.  What’s the fun in Twitter?

Anyway, if you want to follow my Twitter account, here is the link: http://twitter.com/NachoUnderpants.  It’s really no more exciting than this blog – and I can only write in 140 characters or less.  Maybe that’s better?

St. John Dining Update

stj15

I just returned from two weeks on St. John and realized I hadn’t updated any St. John dining posts in awhile, so here is the latest:

RESTAURANT OPENINGS & CLOSINGS

Chateau Bordeaux Closed.
One of my favorite restaurants has closed, Chateau Bordeaux on Bordeaux Mountain.  This location is my absolute favorite view on the island and I am sad that the restaurant (and adjoining cheeseburger shack) is gone.  According to the Coconut Telegraph, the owners (who also own Asolare, Paradiso and Chloe & Bernards) had recently revamped the menu to reflect the “new” economy (read: cheaper prices) but still weren’t getting enough customers to make it work.  Hopefully they will sell or reopen soon, as this location is a true gem. 

NEW OPENINGS

La Plancha del Mar
In better news, a few new places have opened – most notably the new La Plancha del Mar in the Marketplace, which has been getting stellar reviews from all over the place.  La Plancha is in the old China Shack location, and is smaller than I remember.  It has about 8 tables and a nice bar surrounding the “plancha” – or the plank they use for cooking.  The food was good – especially the grilled items such as the prawns and steaks – but frankly, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.  Yes, the gentlemen that run the place are very, very nice, but the prices are astronomical for what you get – even for St. John.  I had a cheese plate appetizer that had three cube-size portions of cheese with some commercial trail mix and an interesting strawberry/mustard sauce and it was like $12!  The dinners were pretty small portion sizes as well and more expensive.   We shared a dessert that everyone talks about, a chocolate waffle with ice cream.  It was good, but not the chocolate orgasm I was expecting from the conversation with the drunken table next to us.  (They need to lose the novelty long-plate-presentation as well as it doesn’t add anything to the experience  – except maybe making you realize that you’re not getting much.)  Overall, a good place – but really nothing spectacular to justify the high prices.  There are better places to go if you want to spend a bundle on dinner.

The Surly Cantina 
A new and already-popular spot is The Surly Cantina, located across from Slimman Parking in the Wharfside where the old Paradise Cafe used to be.  I had heard that not only were they great, but cheap – something increasingly rare on STJ.  Well, the rumors were half right – the food was fantastic, but hardly cheap.  We weren’t that hungry, so we decided to share 3 fish tacos and two margaritas.  Total bill?  $47!  Okay, it was kind of our fault for not paying too much attention to what we were ordering.  It turns out tacos are $2/ea + extra for meat or fish.  We got the fish which was an extra $5 PER TACO.  So, that’s $21 for three tacos.  Ouch!  (Oh, and the remainder was the margaritas – we ordered top shelf which I should have noticed was listed on the menu, but had no price next to it.  You do the math on that one.)  The tacos were fantastic.  Probably some of the best fish tacos I have ever had.  Oh, and that margarita – it may have been worth the price as I could hardly function for the rest of the day and I only had one!

Jake’s
Jake’s is the new spot in the Lumberyard that is in the old Chilly Billy’s location.  It is run by the same people who used to run the Front Yard, and kind of keeps the same hours as they advertise they are open until 4am.  I can’t imagine who is in there at 4am as most stuff shuts down pretty early in Cruz Bay, and even the bars close at 2am.  Anyway, we stopped in for a quick lunch as we had to pick something up at the Lumberyard.  I had a BLT and the man had a cheeseburger and it wasn’t bad at all.  No frozen hamburger bun, which is the bane of my existence in the Caribbean – and my bacon was cooked crispy as I asked, so extra points for someone finally cooking my bacon correctly.  They were out of potatoes, which was funny because the sides are all potato-related except for pasta salad, so this is what we had.  Totally Kraft Italian Dressing on my pasta salad, so points off for Kraft crap.  Other than that, it was good food and probably great to scarf stuff down at 3:45 am for sure.

Wharfside Pizza
When the old Senorita Pizza closed at Wharfside a few months ago, I wasn’t too sad as another pizza place opened in it’s place: Wharfside Pizza.  And, this place had the added bonus of installing an actual pizza oven in order to cook the pizzas.  How hard can it be to make a good pizza?  Hard, I guess.  We picked up a couple of pies on our Day Zero in to town as we’d gotten in late and I had some drunken ladies on my hands.  Even in my inebriated state, I knew deep down that the pizza sucked.  Tiny toppings (many obviously canned), doughy crust, tasteless sauce and a really long wait all added up to a disappointing experience – especially from the same owners of Mojo Cafe and Waterfront Bistro, which always get good reviews.

SOON COME

I saw a few signs that a new Chinese restaurant called Lucky Pagoda will be opening “soon” (that could mean next week or next year using the Caribbean timetable) in the Lumberyard where the old Polly’s used to be.  Not sure STJ was really missing Chinese food since the awful China Shack closed last year, but it sure can’t be any worse.  I guess sometimes you need a good eggroll, but I’d rather have a fish pate from Hercules.  (Update: I read today that the Lucky Pagoda is set to open tomorrow, March 11.  Saw a copy of the menu and it looked pretty basic.  The real trick is getting an ample supply of asian ingredients like water chestnuts, bamboo, bok choy, etc.  Good luck to the Lucky Pagoda!)