After the last A.C.T. play of the season, Happy End (A Melodrama with Songs, Lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, Music by Kurt Weill), we repaired to Cortez for a drink and a bit of bar food. I like that room, long and narrow with a bar on one side and banquettes on the other, followed by clothed tables in the dining area to the rear. It’s subtly decorated and features strange and wonderful sculptural lights. And their small plates are unfailingly interesting and good.
This is about the salmon dish that I ordered: Three slices of just-right-rare salmon draped over green and yellow beans with a light, unctuous sauce, topped by bits of caramelized mushrooms. (I don’t remember its name, and they’ve changed their menu already.)
I have a filet of salmon and some green beans from the Market, so I’m going to try and replicate it starting with a recipe for Poached Salmon With Vodka Sauce that I’ve made. Actually I did it with a whole striped bass.
Basically, steam the green beans to a nice softness; cook the sliced mushrooms in butter low and slow. Poach a salmon filet in a mixture of fish stock, wine, and lemon juice, flavored with scallions and parsley. Remove salmon, add vodka and butter and reduce to make a sauce. Slice the fish and assemble the dish. It could hardly be easier.
Couldn’t have been more of a failure.
1.] Poaching a salmon slowly cooks it through, unsliceable. I knew that. At Cortez they must have roasted it at a high temperature to seal the outside and render the inside rare, but not raw. Also, they used a thinner fillet, about 1/2 inch thick, mine was a little over an inch thick.
2.] The broth reduction did not get wonderfully flavorful; don’t know why. I’ll have to experiment with that.
3.] Green beans were just fine.
4.] Mushrooms were just fine, but I might have used something more exotic than button â€˜shrooms.
Overall, not a bad home dinner. But what I’m not is a pro, not even close. I will keep trying new things. I will not become a pro, but I will become a better home cook. Someday, I’ll have a proper piece of salmon and try this again.
At the Cortez bar
… this guy at the bar sitting next to Carol struck up a conversation with her about cucumber infused gin. He suggested a variation: Infuse a bottle of gin with three stalks of fresh basil. Muddle a piece of cucumber with sugar in the bottom of a rocks glass, pour in the basil gin. Enjoy.
Turns out he’s a guy who “sets up bars”…picks spirits, provides recipes for drinks, ideas for display, picks flatware and plates, everything to the toothpicks. The last restaurant he did was Bong Su, which is SOMA. Carol saw it mentioned in the gossip column this morning.
He pulled out a leather case enclosing a shaker; shot glasses and other glasses and implements… he also had a cloth bag with various liquors and pulled out two bottles, a pear eau de vie, and some kind of Peruvian brandy, and offered her tastes (she shared). He said that Hanger 1 is the best vodka…asked the bartender to name the 4 Hanger 1 flavors on the shelf and insisted we taste the Raspberry infused one… (he “places” the line of Hanger 1 flavored vodkas, they’re in Alameda, we should visit). Yummy, not sweet. Also he definitely recommends Plymouth Gin.
Carol urged me to give him my eatsforone card, which I did. He asked me about my background… “Oh… My… God… my two favorite, dreamed about professions, architect, bookseller.” He went on to say that he just quit his job and will open a seviche restaurant called Karma in the Mission. He’ll surely call me. Yes, he will.
Another thing I like about Cortez, interesting people go there (OK, this guy was a little over the top, not that there’s anything wrong with that).