Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

DA | BA, surprising and unexpected and delicious

Det var en gång, två dagar sedan...

It was Kim's birthday and I wanted to find a great restaurant to take her to. We've never been to the Basement Bistro but knew that we wouldn't get in this late in the game, so, I called up my friend David who is not only a wine connoisseur but a foodie and he suggested DA|BA. In his opinion, DA|BA was the best offered by the region. And I must concur, DA|BA (DABA) is the region's best restaurant. Kim and I have eaten all over the Hudson Valley, not to mention NYC, SF, Vienna, you name it, and DA|BA outshines anything the Hudson Valley has to offer. DA|BA reminded us of the French Laundry when it was just starting out.

225 Warren Street
Hudson, NY 12534
Phone 518.249.4631
Fax 518.751.1480

DA|BA is interesting, tasty and beautiful food presented in a simple, almost bistro setting. DA|BA is about the food. I'm a sucker for fine plates and beautiful presentation; I loved their plates and I love their plating. Each bite was a pleasure and a surprise. Kim was delighted anew with each course and so was I. Childlike we looked forward to every plate, every dish and every glass of wine.

Chef/Owner Daniel Nilsson and Executive Chef Ola Emanuel Svedman run the place with the help of Daniel's brother Michael, who is the bartender. The combined genius of these two gentlemen is extrodinary. Daniel's father and Ola's father were good friends in Stockholm and when Daniel opened DA|BA he brought Ola and Michael on board. To me, DA|BA was a Swedish homecoming. And though the food transcends Swedish cooking, it preserves the best of Sweden, which accents the food throughout.

Ola and I discussed what we liked about Swedish food, I said the pastries, he said the soups and bread. I could not disagree. Lo and behold, they're going to open a bakery next door. That should be a beautiful addition to Hudson's revitalization.

As a chef, and especially as a chocolatier, I like to create things with interesting and unusual combinations but I also like to preserve and respect the classics. Indeed, sometimes I use classic taste profiles but create unique presentations and I've been known to use classic presentations with outrageous tastes. DA|BA does exactly this but in Swedish.

Kim and I got the tasting menu and followed David, our friend's advice, asking the chefs to do what they will, go wild, as it were. They created something special for us.

First we had the amuse buch. They brought before us tiny smörgås, a Swedish open sandwich on knäckebröd, or crisp bread or hard tack. It brought me back to Sweden. Very tasty. Sniffle. This was a Ratatouille the Movie moment for me.

Ola and Daniel thought that smörgås and knäckebröd embodied Sweden. I didn't disagree but I told them that I thought caviar in a tube and filmjölk, a one of a kind sour milk product like kefer, did that for me. They didn't disagree.

The first course was their Crispy Tuna Tartar, made crispy with a wanton ring that held the tartar. This came as a trio of one sautéed scallop, which I thought was a little overcooked for my palate though Kim loved it, the tartar and a cucumber vinaigrette gelée. The cucumber gelée went well with both the tartar and the scallop and with the Piper Heidsieck. Yes we got the pairing little knowing what we were in for. Ooh, what a night. The Champagne paired with this nicely.

I had to borrow a camera to take these pictures and unfortuantely the flash was off so, we're just going to have to go back. To take pictures, eat food and practise my Swedish.

Next time, I promise, I wont forget my camera.

The second course was a squab mousse that they were working on. This plate was s little busy for me but each bite was the best bite. This was terrific. It contained a beautiful squab mousse, a quail egg sunny side up, sound familiar?, and vanilla pickled pearl onions with poached figs and some dried coconut. This was over a painting of a chocolate and balsamic vinegar with a crisp as some architecture. I put the quail egg, bottom covered in chocolate, some squab mousse on the crisp with an onion and was in heaven. Yum. Yum. Yummer. Yum. What can I say? Smak gud. Smakriktning smaksensation. They used Noël chocolate, which I like but don't use myself. With the balsamic vinegar they could have used almost any reasonable chocolate. This gave us a chefgasm.

The second course is what we are eating.

With the second course we were given a full glass each of Brancott Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. A very New Zealand savignon blanc but it pared well with the meal.

Next was the Fois Gras Panna Cotta. Think about that for a second. Vanilla, milk or cream, and fois gras? Mix that with an orange sauce, Kim's favorite, Mache, nice, saffron pears, which I thought too astringent but I loved it with the fois and Kim just loved it as a refresher, port wine blackberries, double yummer. This was surprising and one of the best things that I have eaten. This ranks up there with Perilla's farro resotto, French Laundry's Oysters and Pearls. The combination of vanilla and silky smooth fois gras set off the fat of the fois gras and the other ingredients to enhance and complement the dish. The presentation could have been sharper and less piecemeal but the flavors were fantastic. Det gå bra. Truly a chefgasm. This dish is one of Ola's favorites. Mine too.

For the third course we were given a full glass of Hugel Gewurztraminer. A 2006, fruity and dryish Gewurztraminer that paired with the Fois Gras. We both still had the savignon blanc, though the Champagne was gone.

The fish course. We had the Dill Baked Arctic Char Södermalm. The pear and horseradish broth combined with the parsley root purée to make this a great fish course. I loved the shitakes and the aspargus as well.

The Elk Filet came next. Kim was amazed at how tender the filet was. This came with Potatoes Anna, perfectly executed, orange infused carrots, and a wild black current port wine sauce. I was in heaven. The Elk came with lingon (lingonberry) and Kim was in heaven. This course was paired with Zinfandel. I think it was a Mauritson, Dry Creek Valley. In any case, that was just the ticket. Another chefgasm. These guys know how to pair wines. It isn't often you get this type of expertise in a chef.

This picture is a bit soft and out of focus but the flavors were not.

Though we had a pairing, Ola came out with an aquavit that was flavored with horseradish. I love a little horseradish on my elk and this aquavit, homemade, was the perfect way to compliment the elk. Yet another chefgasm (YAC).

Then out came this intermezzo that even the waitress called a dessert. It was a black berry current smoothie, you might say, that we mixed with Muscadet or a Moscato Bianco, I forget and this was paired with a lemon sorbet with caraway seeds. This was a lovely intermezzo. When I jokingly asked what wine they were pairing with, they said, well, it's an intermezzo so no pairing and then Ola ran off to get a pairing that Daniel suggested. They brought out a.. and here memory fails me. The wine, the food, the everything and I forgot to write it down. (Help me out here lads. What WAS that?) But I made them give us only a drop or two because by this time, we were feeling all the wine.

Unlike most pairings, we did not have just a finger or two with each course, rather we had four to six ounces with each course, sometimes more, as in the case with the aquavit, and since Kim was driving, guess who was obligated to uphold the Swedish honor, mej. Yup. Kim, womanfully, tried to keep up and drank much of what was in front of her but by this time, we'd given up at least three full glasses of wine. Kim and I just don't drink any more and so we are light weights. Next time, I think we'll hire a car. Ola and Daniel really know how to entertain. Oh, and the Zin went very well indeed with the intermezzo.

Next came the cheese. It was a very good selection with some julienne pears on the side and a sumptuous blueberry marmalade. With this they served a Banyul. Very tasty. We still had some of the Zin left and that went well with not only the cheese but also the next two desserts.

The desserts. Kim got raspberry six ways. They plan on showcasing a berry or a fruit and doing it six ways for the summer or as long as they can get good berries and fruit. They have a great berry farm in Greenport that they get their lingonberry from and the rest of their fresh berries. I got a chocolate decadence, a white chocolate foam on top of a chocolate mousse on top of a chocolate crisp.

And as if this wasn't enough, out comes a Sterno burner with two homemade marshmellows on skewers. They call it Reliving Your Past. We got to toast our marshmellows, drink our Banyuls and eat toasted marshmellows. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes.

Then, just when we thought we were done, out comes quenelles of chocolate ice cream made with, wait for it, O'Boy, a Swedish Chocolate Drink, like Quik, and plum. The finish on this ice cream was spectacular. I am running out of adjectives.

These last two dishes were experiments, I understood, and I think they were trying them out on us. Lucky us. Espcially the marshmellows. That delighted Kim and me.

This is the only set of photos that actually came out cool without the flash. It sort of looks like we are camping.

To finish up, I would like to say that Ola and Daniel brought out a lot of the food but this didn't mean we didn't have a waitress. Our waitress, Rebecca, who has a Swedish last name but spoke no Swedish, was a gem. The wait service from her and also from Mike, who helped out once or twice, was stellar. And to top it off, I forgot my camera, so Rebecca lent me hers. I took all the photos except the one with Kim and me as subject. Rebecca, a photographer, had a great mini-camera. Thank you Rebecca.

What an adveture DA|BA was. I haven't had food this well done in a long time. DA|BA was like going to French Laundry, Alinea and Tru all rolled into one. A friendly, restful and exciting culinary adventure.

And thanks again, Rebecca, for sending me these photos. Don't worry, we'll be back. And thanks Daniel, Ola and Micheal. Wonderful time and beautiful food. Tack för maten.

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ChocoVision (Rev X) works great.

I have been using the last release of the Rev X for several months now and it is solid. They've asked me if I want the latest SW release to get rid of some small quirks but I said no. After my long history of problems with the Rev Delta and X, I'll be sticking with what I have.

The baffles are still a problem and they've raised the price on the them. They break easily. Luckily, I had a store of baffles. I just ordered two. By accident, I had ordered three of the Rev 2 baffles and they happily exchanged them. ChocoVision has always had great customer service and now they have a working machine. I don't think I'm going to chance the Delta. I'll stick with this workhorse.

I may buy another one but for now, I have to get something bigger. I am debating between a Hilliard Hand Coater or a 6 inch Coater. Suggestions anyone?

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