Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You can't have pudding unless you eat your meat!

As it turns out we often don’t mind missing out on the pudding. Quite surprising to me the dessert poll ended with ‘almost never’ getting the most votes. That is 41% of those polled say they almost never order something sweet off the restaurants dessert menu. In a close second 35% of the pollsters claim to be tempted with sweets only half the time they eat out. I’m also somewhat interested in the fact no one was interested in cheese to end their meals. Manchengo cheese topped with goat milk caramel and truffle honey at Momocho was one of my favorite ways to end a meal ever.

Since I have this platform I can explain myself. I am much more inclined to order dessert at a restaurant that either employees a pastry chef, or operates a bakery. Sure we could stick with the no-brainers….crème brulle, molten chocolate cake, or berries blah blah blah. But what’s the point; it all tastes the same everywhere. I almost always order dessert if there is a pastry chef, and never order any of the 3 options previously mentioned. The French toast at Lola is one that I’ll never forget.

I will admit that most of the time I go out it’s a stop for ice cream on the way home that rounds out the evening. There is a dual purpose to this. First, most times eating out means putting a lot of food down the hatch in a short period of time. Think about it, apps, salad, and entrée all in 45 minutes or so. I’m stuffed after that. Even if I have a taste for something sweet I need to take some time relax. The drive home provides exactly that. Second, I can get a whole lot of ice cream for $8. Two or three helping at least compared to a one time shot with that restaurant dessert. Pure economics. Mitchell’s blueberry chocolate chip is really good, but my all time favorite is a classic mint chocolate chip.

I strongly encourage everyone to support their local pastry chefs and bakeries. I’ve worked with a few very talented pastry chefs and recognize the great work that a few others are capable of. Plan ahead when you dine out. Try sharing an appetizer to save room for dessert. Be brave and try something new or creative. I’m guessing that you’ll be disappointed a lot less than you think.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Top Chef, just as planned.

Oh yes, I’ve been watching Top Chef all this time. This is a really great season. There are an unusually high number of chefs who seem to really have a chance at winning it all. Likewise, every week it’s a tossup as to which of the weaker chef’s obvious and/or glaring oversight will get them sent off. Ashley has been something of a surprise the past few weeks, but I don’t have any faith in her for the long term. The brothers have no clashed as I predicted. Jennifer has come through safe and sound all the while providing a volley of insecurities over her deconstruction of lasagna. Eli likewise has always come to the table with a sound, interesting, quality dish.

I’m not sure what I missed, or when it happened, but doesn’t it seem like overnight Robin grew horns, a tail, hooves for feet and traded her santuko in for a long handle sickle? I was turned off by her in the first episode where she chose not to cook and relish in her gold coin luck. It seems like others; specifically her co-contestants have ill feelings toward her as well. Is it all real? I’m not convinced. It is that time in the season where the producers decide to spice things up. They have enough footage shot by now to piece something together and create a villain. Genius! We will have to follow this in the coming weeks. It’s all good fun until someone gets sent home!

On a different topic, I have been getting comments to one of my posts in Japanese. Almost every day for a month now, I don’t post them, but I have translated them with Yahoo Bablefish. They don’t make any sense. Does anyone know how to make it stop?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parsnip-pear Bisque

Parsnip-pear bisque with pecan-maple pesto

Equal parts parsnip and pear
1 medium sweet onion
1 cup sweet white wine
Water to cover
Cream to consistency
Pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander

…and Pesto
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons maple syrup
10 leaves basil

Peel and chop parsnips, caramelize in butter over medium-high heat until nice and golden brown. Add onions and cook until soft. Mix in the spices then add pears that are peeled and cored. Let this cook for about 10 minutes. If the pears don’t give up enough liquid to deglaze the pan add the wine, if they do then just drink the wine. Add just enough water to cover the ingredients and cook for half an hour. This mixture will be very thick after pureed, adjust the consistency with a dairy product of your choice. I like to use at least a small amount of heavy cream.

Put the pecans in a plastic bag and smash them very well into ¼ inch size pieces. Toast them in a hot pan, off heat add the maple syrup and chopped basil. Toss in some chunky sea salt, and if needed reduce the syrup just a bit. The salt and herbs should help this to not clump up too bad.

I like to add the pesto right into the soup, but it’s also nice to leave that up to the person eating the soup and serve the pesto alongside the soup with a nice hunk of bread.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mobile pics

Smoked Duck Breast, Heirloom cherry tomato salad, strawberry-basil-bourbon gelle

Shrimp and Black Bean stuffed Squid, spicy tomato sauce, olive, parsley, caper berry garnish

Swine Flu Stew

The current Swine Flu situatation is a unique one. There is a whole lot of speculation, a whole lot of pseudoscience, some witchcrafts, zombies, and living undead. But what we know is that it’s not really all that bad. It’s the flu, so try as hard as you can to not get the flu!

What makes me feel safe is that the upraise that happened a few ekes ago when collage students went to their dorms. The scare never emerged into anything. The strongest young people of this nation didn’t have a problem with this swine flu.

Let me present you with a few facts:

The outbreak of what is popularly called swine flu involves a new H1N1 type A influenza strain that's a genetic combination of swine, avian and human influenza viruses.

This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs (swine) in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs

Influenza viruses infect the cells lining your nose, throat and lungs. The virus enters your body when you inhale contaminated droplets or transfer live virus from a contaminated surface to your eyes, nose or mouth on your hand.

Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products

To avoid a nasty flu, wash your hands often. Stay away from sick people, and if you do get sick stay away from others. It’s that easy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I have a dream

I had a dream last night about working in a unique kitchen that was rather interesting. Let me explain. The scene started with a group of chefs sitting at a picnic table discussing chef things in a very relaxed atmosphere, this same feeling transferred over to a kitchen where I was told, “this is work now, put your game face on.” I was part of a team that was set in a large room standing at a very large circular white table with very bright lights overhead, think hospital setting. I know there were ovens and heat around us, but it was not the center of the kitchen, this white table was. As it turned out everyone around the table had a specialty, something that made them unique in the group. I was paired with a young lady whose specialty was shrimp and couscous. But we also had a box of brightly colored sauces that we applied to plates and food by either paint brush or hypodermic needle.

Customers sat in a rather informal setting with only a short wall separating us. There was no menu, customers suggesting things they wanted, or pairing they anticipated and when an order came in, the table of chefs talked quickly about what to make, and just as swiftly went about creating a dish that would circle the table until the chef accepted it. All the time the chef was more a part of the group than a separate figure. Every plate had all 12 chefs hands on it, and communication was very open. Not like reality.

So in my dream the perfect order came in for couscous and shrimp so we went to town. I injected the shrimp with basil, and crusted it with pine nuts while my partner made a couscous and shrimp dumpling that was wrapped in plastic wrap and steamed. The plate went around the table everyone adding details with the lightest touches.

It was very weird because nobody stressed, and everyone was calm and had their prep ready. Everyone was able to add something to every dish without conflict, in a timely matter. Everyone was happy to be working.

Oh, and there was no dishwasher. Nothing got cleaned. Due to sanitation everything went down a trap and was ground up into a powder that used to burn in the stoves so there was no energy cost. A dirty pot, down the trap to be burnt and they bought a new one. I was upset by this and wanted to take a pan home.
And then I woke up to feed the cats.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Booze Poll Results

So classic cocktails is where it’s at! Wikipedia says that “A Classic cocktail is defined here as a cocktail which appeared after the publication of Jerry Thomas' 1887 Bar-Tender's Guide but before the end of Prohibition in the United States in 1934.” I didn’t really mean this when I posted this poll, and I don’t think most of you who voted thought this way. To me, a classic cocktail is not only one filled with a history, but one that is simple, and made with simple or standard ingredients. I’ll go ahead and say a classic cocktail shouldn’t have more than 3 ingredients, unless there is a history to one of them that trumps the rule of 3.

When I was 21 and living with a roommate we often shared liquors in a very respectful manner. On one occasion I can vividly recall this chap bringing home a citrus juicer, 3 very large grapefruit, a container or kosher salt, and an expensive bottle of gin. Way too much for my taste at the time, but after he gave me the whole Hemingway story, I was down with it, and we shared what I later learned is in fact a classic cocktail known as a Salty Dog.

When I was only 20, in college, and walked to the liquor store only so often since I had to cross a very busy road and carry everything in a back pack. I had some extra cash and decided on a bottle of scotch. I had no idea what scotch was so I went mid-level. A bottle in a box seemed very classy to me at the time. A seal and a cork top made my mouth water as I opened my prize after a long trip home. A few ice cubes, and my first sip…..I almost spit out, tasted like charcoal to me. I went to work the next day and asked a few guys if scotch tastes like charcoal, and they said, “Only if you bought some good stuff.” I think I gave the bottle away.

I like most mid-American men have come to the conclusion that fancy cocktails are not necessary. We have our own cocktail we call a shot and a beer. Maybe the most perfect drink imaginable. Mix it yourself, cheap, manageable, and manly, no frills here, no garnish, no sword picks, cheese stuffed fruit, not even any ice!

No matter if it’s a salty dog or a shot and a beer “Cheers” to you and thanks for voting.