Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sacks Cafe and a bonus recipe!

Went downtown to do the First Friday Art Walk with some friends - had a great time, looked at some neat art in the galleries. For those of you in the Anchorage area, it's well worth the effort to get out and see some of what downtown has to offer! Anyway, the snacks on offer at the galleries were not quite doing the trick, so we started talking about all the great places downtown has to eat. My friends had both been to Sacks Cafe, and insisted we try it. The place was packed with other art walkers, and we almost didn't get a seat. We finally wheedled our way in by promising we would clear off in an hour, the point at which the table was reserved.
The entrees were pricey, although the descriptions in the menu made them sound incredible. In the end though, we decided on getting a bunch of appetisers and sharing. We got the olive sampler, the Alaskan scallops, baked Brie en croute, and the cheese plate. After placing our order, we enjoyed the ambiance (sophisticated cafe) and the art (varied and pretty good). After a short wait, we got out food. We looked at our plates, looked at each other, and just started laughing. There were these tiny little islands of food on these vast white china planes... the table was covered, but it was with dishware more than anything else. At this point, we were somewhat disillusioned - the surly guy at the front counter, the tiny portions... But then we started eating, and all that was forgotten.
The olives were delicious - warm and unctuous and rich. The cheese plate had a rich hard cheese and a strong goat cheese, along with a complex gastrique, slices of bright strawberries and some glazed nuts. All together it was a well-chosen collection for tasting the cheeses at their best. The baked brie was also wonderful. It is pretty hard to screw up Brie, and this plate enhanced it artfully. The cheese itself was delicious, warm and buttery with its crisp flaky crust. The olive tapenade provided a wonderfully salty and sharp counter point. Roasted garlic provided an earthy base to the light cheese. And apricots and strawberries were bright and sweet next to the cheese. Altogether another hit.
Then we got to the scallops. I don't like seafood in general, and have never eaten a scallop. However, my friends double-dog-dared me, so I tried one. It was very good! So I have no basis as to whether this particular scallop was superior in any way to other scallops. I just know that one was pretty good. They were served with a mango curry puree, which was also delicious, and a mini-salad served in a little Parmesan-crisp bowl. The salad was also delicious, and the bitterness of the cheese crisp was a neat addition to the fresh greens.
About midway through our meal, we realized that there was indeed plenty on our plates, it was just that the dishes were so terrifyingly huge that it made the appetizers look so tiny and forlorn. The three of us just barely managed to finish, and we were wishing we hadn't gotten so much - although there wasn't one thing we had regretted eating!
Then one of my friends ordered a desert - her favorite, which she has only ever gotten here. It was Russian Cream. Out came a creamy orange desert - custardy in texture, served cold - with a fruit sauce over it. We puzzled over what was in it, and my friend challenged me to figure it out. After I got home, I did just that. I have to confess, I cheated a little - I found a recipe that was close, and changed it up some to get it closer still. It's still not exact, but the flavor is right, and the texture is darn close. Just in case you want to try it, here's the recipe...

Russian Cream with Tangy Fruit Salsa

3/4 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cold water
1 orange
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 can pineapple chunks
1/4 tsp. salt

  1. Start by grating the peel off the orange. This is going in the cream part of the desert. Reserve the rest of the orange for the fruit salsa.
  2. Soften the gelatin in a small bowl with the tbsp of cold water - use a little more water if necessary.
  3. Mix the sugar, the half cup of water and the orange peel in a pan and heat just until boiling, stirring steadily.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the gelatin - stir steadily to make sure the gelatin is even mixed in. There shouldn't be any gelatin lumps when you stop stirring.
  5. Mix in the cream and the yogurt. Again, whisk until it is completely mixed together and all is incorporated.
  6. Finally, add the vanilla, making sure to blend thoroughly.
  7. Divide the cream mixture into molds or bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

The original recipe said this made 6 servings. That was not the case in our house! Maybe for tiny eaters.

Once the cream in gelling in the fridge, start the fruit salsa. Dice up the pineapple chunks very small, but do not crush them. You want to leave some texture in the fruit. Then the orange. For me, this was the most tedious part of the operation. Peel the orange, then section it, removing the membrane from around each section. Then break up each section into smallish parts but again, trying to maintain the texture. Mix the fruit chunks in a bowl, and very very lightly salt it. Taste for flavor - you may want to add a little of the pineapple juice to the mix.

When the cream has gelled, top with the salsa and enjoy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmm . . . sounds wonderful! Put it on the list for our next visit.