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For my eyes only

During family vacations, dinners out with friends or some quiet one on one time with my wife at a established or new restaurants, I take my time to search and surf the dinner menu for entrees that captures my attention. After dinner or while waiting for our check, I'll ask the waitress/waiter to please let the chef or owner know the entree was outstanding and sneak in a request for the recipe as a keepsake. I also stress that the entree recipe is for "my eyes only" and not to be shared or distributed in any way with family or friends. At times I'm told it's a specialty of the house and recipes are kept a secret but more often I'll end up with either a digest version or the real recipe. What recipes have you collected? From where? And what is your favorite?

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  1. Right off the top of my head, the one I can recall getting clarification on is the recipe for sangria from my favorite Spanish tapas restaurant, down to the specific red wine they use. The recipe was originally published in my local newspaper after an interview with the owner, but it wasn't *quite* right. I spoke to the bartenders several years after getting the recipe, and asked them what was different. It was the brand of rioja that really made a difference.

    I've not thought to ask for recipes from a restaurant otherwise. Perhaps I need to do so. :-)

    9 Replies
      1. re: EM23

        Here you go EM23. The recipe says "Spanish rioja wine" but the one Dali uses is a grenache called Vino Borgia from Bodega Borsao. I can find it at two locals wine stores near me.

        http://www.bodegasborsao.com/

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2790...

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Gracias, Linda! The Boston Globe tips are interesting - I have never let sangria sit 24 hours to meld the flavors, but it makes sense. Thanks again:)

          1. re: EM23

            The restaurant's staff makes the next day's sangria (25 gallons every day, I believe) on the afternoon the day before they will use it. Even when I'm making it a couple of half-gallons for a party, I try and make it at least the night before.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            Linda, do you happen to know which orange brandy is used? And is the amount of brandy in the recipe an even split between traditional brandy and orange brandy? I've seen a Torres orange brandy on the market, which I believe is similar to Grand Marnier, and then there are orange liqueurs such as Licor 43.

            1. re: ChristinaMason

              Christina, no orange brandy - just a plain, basic Christian Bros. brandy. The Triple Sec gives it the orange oomph.

              Licor 43 (a fave after-dinner drink at Dali) is more vanilla-flavored (at least it is for me). Gran Torres is the Spanish version of Grand Marnier, the orange-flavored brandy, and I find I like Gran Torres better - it doesn't have the "bite" the French Grand Marnier does. Much smoother!

              1. re: LindaWhit

                LOL, I'm so confused. From the notes by the Boston Globe, at the bottom of the post you linked to:

                "The red wine sangria served at Dali begins with an inexpensive dry red Spanish table wine, Vina Borgia, which is mixed with regular Spanish brandy and an orange brandy.

                The fruit and brandy are combined with sugar and orange juice and allowed to sit for at the least 24 hours for the flavors to mellow. ''It's important to let it stand,'' Iriarte says.

                His sangria has a fuller, sweeter flavor than red wine sangrias made without the orange brandy."

                The Gran Torres definitely sounds appealing; I'm not the biggest fan of Grand Marnier, although I love citrus and Coitreau quite strikes my fancy.

                1. re: ChristinaMason

                  Ahhh, sorry. Had forgotten what the Globe had said. Dali uses Spanish brandy (I use the basic Christian Brothers). And I guess the Globe called the Triple sec a "brandy" vs. a liqueur.

      2. Root beer barbecue sauce from The Wort Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. More info here:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/643319

        ETA: My very sentimental favorites are recipes my cousins have written (or typed) from my uncle's restaurant, where we all worked growing up. My favorite dish at the restaurant was steak umbriago (right, drunken steak in the dialect), made with Harvey's Bristol Cream and garlic over a nice ribeye. I also love the way my cousin has shared them with me because he writes recipes just the way I do--as if I'm talking to you in the kitchen. :) Excerpt here:
        "Olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Don't ask how much, you know we didn't cook that way. Enough for the bottom to be wet, and a bit more so it doesn't dry up. Don't put heat under it yet, we have more to do first."

        1. I tried to get the Green Chile Stew recipe at Martin's Capitol Cafe in Roswell, New Mexico and was told to go straight to hell. Rightfully so.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            There are dishes in NM I'd die to have.

            Before the internet restaurants and chefs were more inclined to give out a few secrets or even the recipes.

            They now give that one person who says "I'll never ever give it to anyone else" BS and then goes home and floods the internet with the recipe.
            Ugh...it ruins for those of us who truly *would* keep it to ourselves.

            1. re: latindancer

              I'd like to have the entire recipe book for Chope's in La Mesa. Ain't happenin' though.

              I have been fortunate with recipes from defunct or geographically estranged restaurants, however. There used to be a place in my hometown called Plains Pizza. The pie was nothing to write home about, but their meat sauce for spaghetti was out of sight. Plains Pizza went out of business around 1977, however, and I just assumed their celestial meat sauce had vanished into the void.

              Wrong! I was conversing on the Internet with some people about local restaurants that had vanished and happened to mention how much I loved Plains Pizza's spaghetti sauce. One of the interlocutors piped up and said he had gotten the recipe from the owner when he retired. He gave me the recipe (I had to reduce it from institutional size), and I've been making it ever since.

              Likewise, there was a joint called Underwoods' BBQ. The cue was undistinguished, but their sauce was not. I waxed rhapsodic about the sauce on a Facebook page, and a reader, whose hubbie used to cook for Underwoods' read my post and shot me the recipe. I've modified the recipe slightly, and now it is my go-to BBQ sauce.

            2. re: Perilagu Khan

              That's funny!!! I tried to get the same recipe!!! But, being 6'2" and 280lb they were much more respectful :-)

              1. re: tseptember

                Oh yeah? But they still didn't give it to you?

                PS--I exaggerated a mite when I said they told me to go to hell. The owner may have said that, but the sweet waitress softened the message quite a bit. ;)

              2. re: Perilagu Khan

                That's funny!!! I tried to get the same recipe!!! But, at 6'2" and 280lb they were a bit more respectful :-)

              3. We were vacationing in Maui and went to Roy's Restaurant. I had their Macadamia crusted fish with Beurre Blanc and Lobster Nage. It was so darned good. I asked for the recipe, to which they kindly replied please write down my e-mail address and they would get it to me. A little less than a month later, I got an e-mail from the executive chef with the recipes for both the fish and the sauces. Wow.

                1. My first reaction was to say "that's pretty ballsy". Then I remembered that time I got to chat with the chef of the (now defunct) Saffron Cow in West Seattle and he told me how he made his garlic cloves poached in olive oil. But that was a one off, I think.

                  1. Twenty five years ago I was a waitress at a restaurant owned by Stouffer's. I begged one of the cooks for their Garden Vegetable Chowder. I still make it to this day. It's sooo good.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: dmjordan

                      25 years? The statute of limitations against sharing that recipe must have run out :) Are you willing to share?

                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                        Sorry! I didn't check back on this thread. I normally use fresh ingredients but this is how the recipe was written and I pretty much stick to it. I would rather use chicken broth but the original calls for 2 1/2 cups of water and 7 bouillon cubes. Not sure how to replicate that ratio/strength with homemade chicken broth. Also, some measurements might seem odd (weights instead of cups, etc.) but I just reduced the recipe as is and I have a scale.

                        Garden Vegetable Chowder

                        1 stick margarine (I use butter--I think that I actually use a little less)
                        2 medium onions, diced
                        1 3/4 lb. zucchini (approximately 4 small)
                        1 pinch thyme
                        1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
                        1 pinch salt
                        3/8 teaspoon pepper
                        3 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
                        3 1/2 cups tomatoes, chunked (I used diced tomatoes)
                        14 ounces frozen corn
                        7 chicken bouillon cubes
                        3/4 cup flour
                        2 1/2 cups water
                        3/4 cup half-n-half
                        5 1/4 ounces grated cheddar cheese
                        1 3/4 ounces Parmesan cheese
                        1 3/4 teaspoons lemon juice

                        Melt margarine. Add onion, zucchini, thyme, basil, salt, pepper and parsley. Sauté for 8 minutes. (I like soft zucchini so I sauté a little longer.)
                        Add the tomatoes and the corn.
                        Dissolve bouillon cubes in the water. Add flour and mix thoroughly. Add to pot. Add milk and half-n-half.
                        Simmer for 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.

                        Let me know if you make it and how it turns out!

                    2. I'm actually more excited about having the chef's scribble or email as a keepsake than the recipe. Although having the recipe directly from the chef is very cool. The keepsake; the handwritten chef's notes!

                      1. I've had the best luck by emailing restaurants or chefs directly. I recently wrote Kyle Bailey at Birch and Barley in Washington, DC to request his arctic char and yuzu gelee appetizer recipe, and he was kind enough to oblige. In the past, I requested and was given the lamb shank "Mouzat" recipe from Lebanese Taverna (and subsequently made and can vouch for the recipe) and a salmon with minted fava been pesto from Robert Weland when he was still at Poste. Everyone has been so nice---in fact, I don't think I've ever been turned down.

                        1. The originator of a recipe (or book or other reference) makes her living with her unique product. While not food, I've twice been ripped off--once with a professional handout [a draft that I was prepping for publication] that clearly had a copyright mark and another that said "for individual use; not to be duplicated." Both wound up being distributed within my professional field with my name whited-out, much to my dismay and anger. So, I do well understand that "for my eyes only" may well be bogus. My 2 cents.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pine time

                            Pine Time
                            My heart goes out to you, restaurant owners, chefs and others who have been swindled, cheated or lied to in regards to a persons actual agenda.I can assure you my intentions are honorable. My extended family knows I have recipes from my great grandmother, grandmother and places that I've visited. They joke about waiting for me to pass away so they can get their hands on the recipes if I don't set fire to them first..... I have a lighter hidden the pantry just in case. All of my recipes are and will always remain for my eyes only.