Friday, October 26, 2007
Hey everybody, meet CircusBoy! The man who plays trumpet in a circus and podcasts about coffee and coffee people. I promise you that Net 2 doesn't get much better than this. CircusBoy and I have been corresponding briefly (writing short emails back and forth) and he seems like quite a fine fellow with a cheerful disposition and a lot to say about coffee, circuses and motorcycles. I suppose he'd have to be cheerful to work in a got-damned circus! But then how would I know?
The only guy I've ever known who worked at a circus was a pastry chef who worked at Le Cirque and, come to think of it, he was kind of grumpy. Okay, there you have it CircusBoy and his estimable podOmatic site Search for the Best Mocha Latte in the World.
And while you are surfing around, take a look at this yuck-a-minute site that features the last meals of people awaiting execution.
Pinch me, please, I think I'm dreaming...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I took he up on her offer and well, I don't want to make no mountains out of molehills [Not] but I tried it and it worked brilliantly. The vinegar tastes like raspberries, has a nice mouthfeel (in no small part due to the fact that I pumped up the fructose content with raisins prior to primary fermentation) and I think looks pretty good (I racked it off very carefully). The slideshow below shows a few snapshots of the vinegar as it was happening and as it appears now.
The shots that show the vinegar in jar I think are especially cool because of the gully layer of acetobacilli (mother of vnegar) on the top. Don't you think?
I think I like Wofgang Puck again, if only a little. Check this out
Interviewer: So what do you think of food TV?
Puck: It's going in a way now where it's more like housewife cooking than professional cooking. When I did it four or five years ago, they said, "We don't want celebrities; we just want to teach people to be in the kitchen and show them how to cook." . . . [These days, the hosts] get a push-up bra and show a little cleavage and wear a tight sweater, and they think it's sexy housewife cooking. [Washington Post]
Sexy housewife cooking! Hear that Bobby?
And this is flat out hysterical. Read why he refuses to eat foie gras
Interviewer: Do you still eat foie gras?
Puck: I haven't eaten it in six or eight months. And you know what? I didn't want it anymore anyway. Everywhere I go, people know me and I know them, and the chef says, I make you a menu. And everyone has foie gras. And once I eat the foie gras I can't eat any more; it's so rich. So I actually told people I'm allergic to foie gras, because I'd rather have fish or pasta and not these rich things. [Washington Post]
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Top Chef, Iron Chef, Next Iron Chef, Traveling Omnivorous Chefs, Chef-bots who scream about their genitals to cute-as-a-button mushroom Katie Couric-type little sister chefs who can't cook, but who are so inspiring in their cuteness that fans throw flowers at their feet for teaching them how to mix mac and cheese with sloppy joe mix. And now someday-will-be-dying chefs who want to tell us what they would like for their last meal. (Ironically, no one specifies that a meal be liquefied so that it can be delivered through a feeding tube.)
Monday, October 22, 2007
The practice of private purchase contracts is pretty widespread in the raw milk economy. In theory at least, they seem to be ethical and completely legal. But I think the authorities don't like them because some of the customers who sign them don't honor the spirit of the agreement and purchase more than they will use themsleves, then disperse the surplus to friends or resell it.
My knee-jerk reaction is to be sympathetic to Mr. Nolt. Farming is very hard work, and it is exceptionally difficult for small farmers to compete on price with the big guys. I'm suspect that one of the reasons that Mr. Nolt decided not to re-permit his farm is that it's expensive to comply with the testing requirements that are mandated by the terms in the license. I may be mistaken about this, but I think that Dan Messner has to send his milk out every other day to be checked for microbes. As much as I trust and like Dan, I'm not sure I'd buy his milk if I knew it hadn't been screened for microbes.
I don't feel comfortable taking sides in this battle. But if you do, and want to turn out on Aug 25 and support Mark Nolt click the following link for directions to his farm "Produce-The-Evidence" Rally for Raw Milk Farmer
Friday, October 19, 2007
This pancetta could not be more different from the type one is used to buying in the neighborhood deli. The mass produced stuff is much "wetter" and really only good for cooking. The pancetta that I made is chewy with an earthy aroma and can be eaten as it is, like prosciutto di Parma. It's wonderful.
Thanks again to Trent Hendricks of Hendricks Farms and Dairy for providing me with the pork belly for this, and once again, my hat's off to Ruhlman and Polcyn for an excellent book that has done so much to revitalize the ancient craft of salting, smoking and curing meat.
You can see some photos that show the pork belly as it moves through the process of becoming pancetta here.The final product is shown on the slide show below. You see it hanging in the kitchen and not in the basement because the basement proved to be too dry (40% humidity vs 60% in the upper floors of the house).
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
By The Foodist
The time is now upon me. I am about to enter the arena for which all CIA students both yearn and dread. Next week I begin...
Restaurant Row. (Dun dun dunnnn)
The last three or so months of your time in the Culinary Associate Degree program are spent in "Restaurant Row". The school houses four open-to-the public fine dining restaurants which are "run" by the students. Caterina (classic Italian), St. Andrew's Cafe (Nutritional cooking), American Bounty (American Cuisine), and The Escoffier Room (Classic French Cuisine and Service). While in Wines class you must pick the restaurant in which you want to complete Advanced Table Service and Advanced Cooking. You have two choices, E Room or American Bounty. You serve your last 3 weeks at school in this kitchen before graduation.
I guess I'm either a glutton for punishment or just plain nuts because I chose E Room. But there's method to my madness.
Classic French table service is a dying form of service. You have to look long and hard to find restaurants still motivated to this standard of service, mostly due to high labor cost associated with it. Most fine dining establishments in America today run a modified American Style of service. There is a rumor going around that the E Room's days are numbered and in conjunction with the rumor is my feeling that I am here, at the CIA, to learn the basics. I feel as though I would only be cheating myself out of a rare experience if I didn't choose E Room to end my education in.
It's a lot like running a gauntlet, this Restaurant Row. Take for example my first class which will be back of the house St. Andrew's. We are expected to walk into class day one, take the reigns, and run the show like we've been there all along. Service stays the same, menu may change slightly, but from the outside looking in it's as though the same group has been in there since it opened -at least that's the theory.
On top of that we only have 7 days in the kitchen before we move onto back of the house Caterina. As you can see its a process of endless day one's and trying to acclimating ourselves to new kitchens and situations for the next couple months.
It's a good test of a student's ability to come ready to work and applying the education they have received, and with a twist of stress. A few weeks into your start of restaurant row you are given your 5th term cooking practical. The final hurdle to jump before you get to cross that stage and get your diploma.
So suit up, strap in, and get ready for one heck of a ride....
Monday, October 15, 2007
Nearly naked PETA protesters snarl traffic at KFC
By one reckoning there are close to 9 billion chickens born in the United Sates per year that are destined to be food. The life span of one of these chickens is typically 43 days.
The oldest Peking Duck Restaurant in China is going public. Check this out: they already sell 3 million ducks a year! Offering by Peking-Duck Chain May Lead a Wave of China IPOs - WSJ.com
It's tap water or nothing for customers at fifteen Salt Lake restaurants [Source]
Salt Lake City takes on Bottled Water
Toothache flower (Spilanthes acmela) is being touted as the next big thing (yawn).
Little flower bud explodes onto food scene
This probably deserves a post of it's own, but I'm too busy to write at length about anything right now. But check this out. It's a really clever ad for relatively inexpensive kitchen gadgets that is masquerading as slide show about the super hi-tech tool of "molecular gastronomy."
See if you can find the devices that PopSci is trying to shill by associating them with very expensive instruments that no home cook would ever buy.
Kitchen Gadgets Bonanza - Photo Gallery
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
by The Foodist
Since receiving a copy of "The Devil in the Kitchen" two weeks ago I've been fighting to find time to read it. With the class load easing up some and very rare free time making itself present in the evenings I've been reading like a mad man.
I was sitting in the cafe at school reading a chapter (or four) while waiting for my meal when I stumbled across a quote that I've never seen in any of the "How I came to be" and "How to be" books I have read. It's a powerful statement, one that every cook should hear, think, and believe if they want to be great at what they want to do.
"Strange though it may seem, there are many chefs who suffer a fear of the stove. You will find them in the world's finest kitchens. They may be great cooks, with heads crammed full of culinary knowledge, but the minute they are thrown into a busy kitchen, they wobble, lose it and need bailing out. Until they conquer that fear, they are destined never to rise through the ranks and find a place in the kitchen hierarchy."-Marco Pierre White
There is more truth in that statement then any cook, chef, or wannabe of either will want to ever admit to themselves.
Each and every time I step into the kitchen there is a second that exists, choking me, making me sweat. It is a moment of fear that swells within me every time I walk in for a shift. The voice in your head echoes the daily mantra "Don't you dare screw up today!, don't you dare falter, fail, or even slid an inch backwards!"
It is that fear, and that voice that push the good cooks to be even greater. It's a feeling as though every second you are in a kitchen your being watched, evaluated, graded on how you act, what you do, and how well you do it.
I'll be the first to admit I have fallen prey to the darker side of the fear more then once. Its kept me from applying myself. Its kept me from giving it my all. And for what, the fear of failure?
It's almost like a shadow that follows the awakened cooks of the world. Until the day comes where you can control the beast that stalks you, it will hunt you. Its not something that can be taught in Culinary Schools or you can be born with. It comes by the baptism of fire in the kitchen. It comes from dusting yourself off when you fall, and hard work.
There's a quote I find myself repeating time and time again when I have doubts, when I question if I have what it takes to give it my all and do the best damn job I can do everyday.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt
Like White, it takes realizing that it is fear to know what you truly face each and every time you step foot into that kitchen. You fear failure, you fear disappointment, you fear screwing up, and most of all you fear not being good enough.
When it comes down to it, it's deciding not to rank with those poor spirits, but to realize that you will slip, you will fall, and you will screw up. Everyone does, everyone has, and everyone will. The difference is... are you going to let the fear consume you? or are you going to let it propel you?
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
How's that for an inflammatory header; not bad huh? According to Harold McGee writing in today's NY Times, humans seem not to have the ability to tell the difference between organic produce and produce grown by conventional methods. But in a controlled study conducted by Swiss and Austrian scientists rats could not only tell the difference between the two forms, but they preferred the organic produce.
Organic, and Tastier: The Rat’s Nose Knows - New York Times
Charlie Trotter, Ferran Adria, Chicago, Molecular Gastronomy, iPod nano in a conch shell. Isn't life just wonderful? The Night Chicago Ruled the (Foodie) World - TIME
Seriously now. The iPod in the conch shell was created by Heston Blumenthal. The conceit of the creation is the idea that listening to certain sounds while eating can enhance ones perception of the dish. The iPod that accompanied Heston Blumenthal's dish of various seafood ingredients (and yes, sigh, clam foam) is reported to have played the sounds of waves crashing on the beach. Forgetting for the moment that the idea that crashing waves can make seafood taste better is not exactly news (Everyone knows that seafood tastes better at the seashore.)
there is something about this dish that is worth remembering: it is a baby-step towards virtual reality dining.
Dining that is enhanced by information based technology for groups of customers is already in the dining room in the form of computer-controlled lighting and music. But it's going to become much more sophisticated and specifically targeted at individuals diners. Expect to see dining tables that display menu items at first in 2D, and then holographically. Forget iPods, targeted sound and olfactory beams will deliver specific sounds and smells for each course to each dinner.
Eventually, implanted nanomachines will upload information about how you are feeling and what you want to the kitchen. Then chefs, using nanobots and a bowl of chemicals, will create an ambiance, wait staff and food that will give you precisely what they think you would enjoy. But I wouldn't book a reservation too far in advance of that.
By The Foodist
Up until a few months ago all new students at the Culinary Institute of America ate one meal on "Stage." The first six weeks of school are spent behind a desk in academic classes, and you are fed one of your two meals at Stage as part of your acclimation and learning experience.
The dining area was called Stage because the main dining hall, Farquharson Hall (Which used to be the chapel of the monastery that preceded the school.), there is a stage like area at the head of the room. Anyone who knows what the inside of chapel looks like, will immediately recognize that the stage is in fact the base of the altar. Stage has since moved from the main hall to the C.E. (Continuing Education) Building that also houses the schools bake shops.
I still remember my first couple meals on the original Stage, and remember the overwhelming experience of being marched down rows of white and checkered clad upperclassmen to our seats. I remember the students almost burning holes into us with their eyes, sizing up the fresh meat. I remember the students in the Introduction to Table Service class (Which is now called Banquet and Catering) who were serving us, telling us what to expect and giving us tips here and there on how to survive the campus.
Now I stand where I once sat. Moved to the C.E. building I am almost disappointed that the new students don't have to endure the staring, the nervousness of being fed a three course meal while other students shoveled in their dinners and rushed off back to class. Instead they are nestled snuggly in the C.E. dining room away from the fuss and muss of Farquharson Hall.
It's funny hearing some of the same conversations that I took part in only a short time ago. They talk about where they are coming from and where they are at: their previous kitchen experience, how very boring the first two days of orientation are (Believe you me, I must have drank more coffee in those two days then I did the whole time I've been alive), and hearing them worry about this thing and that.
It's almost impossible not to chime in as an upperclassman. A week ago today (Monday) I heard one student express worry over when he was going to get his knives. I almost chuckled to myself. It seems that more than anything everyone who comes here wants their shiny sharp playthings. I ensured him as I refilled his water glass that he would be getting them soon. I'd just finished answer him when a torrent of questions started spewing from a young looking girl with curly brown hair. Her eyes were wide and almost overwhelmed, she asked me more questions in the five minutes I stood there than I could possibly remember. It got to the point that I assured her that most of her questions would be answered as she proceeded through the courses and that things would eventually fall into place. It didn't seem to ease her nervousness at all, so I reassured her that she would be fine, just to keep her eyes open and ears to the ground.
It wasn't till the end of class the next day when I returned to my room that the truth of the matter hit me like a out of control Mac truck... I am almost done.
Less then three months stands between me and graduation, and its funny what happened next.
The same nervousness that was present those first days of eating on stage seemed to return, only this time it wasn't that I was plunging headlong into the routine of school. No, this time it was that I stood on the threshold of finishing that routine and being free to pursue my life's work. Trouble is, I have no idea where to go, or what to do!
Its amusing how that feeling should creep in the same place that it all started. Nervousness about beginning meeting nervousness about the end, both on that place they call "Stage".
Monday, October 8, 2007
The answer is saucisse l 'ail , penne with roasted tomatoes and salad. The sausage is a variation of the basic sausage recipe in "Charcuterie" by Ruhlman and Polcyn. It's made with 4 lbs of pork butt, 1lb of fat back, 4 TBS garlic, black pepper, salt, pine nuts, rosemary and white wine.
I like this book of Ruhlman's. Charcuterie used to be my specialty way back when. But it's been a long time since I've made many of the things in this book, and I've never made any type of salami. So Ruhlman's book is a great refresher course and I'm actually learning a lot about how to make cured and fermented sausages. Frankly, I'm so pleased by this book that I am even willing to overlook the slightly discomforting fact that Michael Ruhlman is younger than me and really it should be me who is teaching him. Not the other way around :-)
Deep Throat Gambit Succeeds: Foie Gras is Banned
The tied up woman with the tube in her throat and her friends have apparently succeeded in getting the York (GB) city council to ban the sale of foie gras. However, if statements made by ban proponents like city councilman Paul Blanchard are any indication of the scope of the impending ban, large animals like the woman in the photo may still have reason to worry.
According to this meat trade publication MeatInfo.com councilman Blanchard is reported to have said
"The torture of small innocent animals should not be a matter of personal dietary choice."
State turns dead deer into compost (The dark side of sustainable agriculture.)
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Possibly the stupidest idea I've read in the past week: a caviar facial.
Two lines I wish I had written
First up, saucisson-sec: a classic sausage seasoned only with salt and pepper. Sliced translucently thin, it literally melted in my mouth like a pork-flavored breath strip.
Man, are Chinese bloggers ever a cranky bunch. Do they really expect that the Chinese government is going to treat pigs the same way they treat coal miners and prisoners?
China Bloggers Stew About Olympic Pigs
Friday, October 5, 2007
Alright then! It's been seven days since I dry rubbed my pork belly with curing salt and spices. During that time it's been sitting in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator having it's myglobin converted into nitric oxide myoglobin, becoming infused with the aroma of nutmeg, juniper, thyme and black pepper and absorbing sodium, chloride ions and sugar molecules that will keep it from drying out too much while inhibiting bacterial growth. It has also acquired a name: Mike.
No one is going to be as surprised as I was when I withdrew the meat from the refrigerator today and heard the pork belly tell me that he wanted to be called "Mike."
Aghast, I said "Mike as in Michael Ruhlman, the author of the book Charcuterie, the guy who wrote the recipe that I used to cure you?"
"No man," he said "Michael Bolton the singer. He's singing swing now, and since I'm going to be swinging from a rope soon, I figured what the hell, that's my cure."
Never one to argue with talking food, especially pork with an obscure rationality I said "Okay Mike, roll over" and proceeded to roll him, tie him up and hang him in the basement. It's not much of a story, I know, but it's the truth.
(The last photo shows a pot filler faucet I'm installing. It's only in there temporarily until I get the stone for the wall behind the stove. It seems weird to me that the faucet is like twice the price of the travertine and glass tiles but I suppose if I added in the cost of my labor for installing the tiles they'd be more expensive.)
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I'm not aware that my girlfriend's dad ever used the corks for anything other than aesthetic pleasure and perhaps , like a gunslinger who notches his gun after each kill, a mnemonic device to remind himself of all the bottles he drank . But his eccentric habit made so much sense to me that I began keeping corks too.
The picture at left represents a large fraction (probably 60%) of the corks that I have pulled from wine bottles at home since about 1980. Over the almost three decades that I've been collecting them, I've used a variety of systems for getting them from the dining room or kitchen to wherever my living arrangements dictated that they be stored. Nowadays, the pulled corks spend a few months in a specially designated kitchen drawer. Then when the drawer becomes too full, I bag them up and bring them into the cellar.
It's fun to go through and try to remember from what period a particular group is from. I am rarely able to place the cork from a specific bottle to a particular moment in space and time, but there are two or three, I reckon, that I haven't forgotten.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
But the celebrity chefs who do cameos on the “Top Chef” judging panel, greeted by awe-struck stares from those contestants, recall the actors and actresses in the tic-tac-toe boxes of “The Hollywood Squares.” They’re transmitting their fungible star wattage, and they’re a long way from their supposed day jobs.
I'm not suggesting that I'm a better writer. (I am not.) And know I would not be happy writing restaurant reviews, but I absolutely covet his job of telling everyone what they already know.
I'm not sure how to think about this yet, it may be apocryphal. But it seems that not only were the Nazis very "progressive" when it came to interpreting the meaning of the term "human rights," but they were way ahead on the subject of animal rights too. So far ahead of their time were these least humane of humans, that they were apparently the first nation to ban the force feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras.
Here is an excerpt from The 1933 Law on Animal Protection; signed into law in November of 1933, about 8 months after Hitler became dictator
It is forbidden:
1. to so neglect an animal in one's ownership, care or accommodation that it thereby experiences appreciable pain or appreciable damage;
2. to use an animal unnecessarily for what clearly exceeds its powers or causes it appreciable pain, or which it-in consequence of its condition-is obviously not capable of;
3. to use and animal for demonstrations, film-making, spectacles, or other public events to the extent that these events cause the animal appreciable pain or appreciable damage to health;
4. to use a fragile, ill, overworked or old animal for which further life is a torment for any other purpose than to cause or procure a rapid, painless death;
5. to put out one's domestic animal for the purpose of getting rid of it;
6. to set or test the power of dogs on cats, foxes, and other animals;
7. to shorten the ears or the tail of a dog over two weeks old. This is allowed if it is done with anesthesia;
8. to shorten the tail of a horse. This is allowed if it is to remedy a defect or illness of the tail and is done by a veterinarian and under anesthesia;
9. to perform a painful operation on an animal in an unprofessional manner or without anesthesia, or if anesthesia in a particular case is impossible according to veterinary standards;
10. to kill an animal on a farm for fur otherwise than with anesthesia or in a way that is, in any case, painless;
11. to force-feed fowl; [emphasis mine]
12. to tear out or separate the thighs of living frogs.
You can read the whole mind-bending thing here
NAZI GERMANY AND ANIMAL RIGHTS
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
How do these people get in to these farms? Do they get jobs under false pretenses or bribe workers to let them in?
And when they show animals being abused, how do we know that what we are seeing is something that happens regularly or only when an animal rights activist is present? I find it odd that no charges were pressed in the case of Elevages Perigord, where video footage shot by animal rights activists showed ducks being stomped and suffocated. Is it possible that the some of the workers who were shown in that video were not employees at all but rather animal rights activists who could not be identified and prosecuted?
We know that animal rights activists are not above releasing immature minks which cannot survive in the wild, to prevent farmers from restocking their farms. So is it crazy to imagine that an animal rights activist might have thrown blood on the duck in this horrendous video? There is an especially gruesome scene where a worker is shown repeatedly slashing the throat of a duck as it flails. The owner of the farm has suggested that the worker had been goaded into this obscene act by the person holding the camera. That certainly sounds plausible to me.
There are enough people in the animal rights movement who have put bombs under cars, vandalized businesses, harassed restaurant patrons and workers, destroyed farms, that it seems entirely possible that these videos we keep seeing that show abuse at foie gras farms might be staged or, at the very least, instigated by the same people who claim to be trying to protect animals.
Warning! This is not a pleasant to watch.