Thursday, May 29, 2008
An Invitation from Mike Pardus
As some of you might know, Bob and I frequently organize interesting culinary adventures for ourselves and friends. Most of the time it's just him and me and a few other food geeks getting together for a weekend of debauchery and conversation. However, recently I've been invited by another geek to go on a REAL adventure - a culinary tour of Kerala, India - mother load of the spice trade. Unfortunately, Robert can't get away from the farm, but the rest of us will be touring the southwestern coast of India from August 10-19th.
There are a few spots left to round out the group - maxes out at 20 people. Cost is $1769 USD for the land portion - you book your own air. This is a "friend of a friend" kind of thing that I was turned onto by someone who helped me organize a trip to Vietnam in '05.
So, if you've got 10 days to kill and want to do something really wild, check it out at:
Love Joy Pardon
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Here's a very short list of names of restaurants that make me wince. Please feel free to add to the list.
The name may be a combination of the chef Willie Dufresne's initials and the street number of the restaurant but it's much too close to WD 40 a fabulous highly inedible, petroleum based anti-corrosive spray lubricant. I've used so much WD 40 over the years that when I see or think the name the smell becomes palpable. There's no way I'm going to sit at WD~50 and not be thinking of the sickly sweetish aroma of WD 40.
Is a relatively new restaurant in Philadelphia that is currently receiving some very nice press. I wish then the best of luck but I doubt that my inner 14 year old would be able to sit through a meal in a restaurant with a name that evokes, Ahem, the peristaltic contractions of the esophagus.
Buca di Beppo
Buca is Italian for hole and Beppo is a nickmane for Giuseppe (Joseph). So Buca di Beppo is literally "Joe's hole."
Frankly, I am unmoved to know that buca also refers to basement.
And overproduction of ethanol.
The Rich Get Hungrier - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
As anyone who has ever cooked for more than one person knows, there are few things that are more infuriating than spending so much time prepping a meal, that you end up rushing to get it cooked, trash the kitchen, then hating your life when it takes more time to clean up than prepare.
Honestly, unless you model yourself after an executive chef and hire a few line cooks and a pot washer to do all the heavy work while you write menus and issue orders, cooking real food from scratch will always be more work than ordering take out. But there are several rules that will, with regular application, make the job a whole lot less stressful and may even improve your cooking.
The night or morning before you are going to cook, visualize the whole process up to the finished plate
This is a trick I picked up in my early 20’s after reading about a basketball coach who taught his players to close their eyes the night before a game and picture themselves getting ready for the game, walking onto the court and so on. He advised them to imagine it all down to the smallest detail and most importantly to imagine themselves as being happy and relaxed. At first I used the technique in college to help me with my running and studies and found that it worked brilliantly. Later, after I became a chef I used it to help me construct dishes and menus when I began to find that the pressure of working in a noisy kitchen was beginning to put a damper on my ability to create and cook efficiently.
Break up tasks into chunks and finish all of one chunk before you move onto another
I sometimes refer to this as the “Henry Ford” approach in recognition of his alleged invention of the production line. If you are preparing mushrooms, don’t wash one, pat it dry, cut off the stem and cut the cap. Wash all of the mushrooms, dry them all, cut off all the stems, then cut them all up. By doing all of one step before moving onto another, you limit the number of tools you need on hand at any given moment to one, reduce the number of hand positions required, and you minimize the distance that your body has to move while you are doing the job so that in the end, you can focus on working fast and deftly.
Make it simpler, not more complicated
It’s easier and arguably more beautiful to take a half of a chicken breast, flatten it gently with a mallet, dust it with flour, season it with salt and pepper and sauté it in clarified butter than it is to whack the thing up into strips, and stir-fry it in a wobbly wok. And if you take the trouble to find really high quality chicken like the kind that I get where I work, you won’t want to do anything that will obscure it’s identity or intrinsic flavor.
It is a useful intellectual and, I would argue, practical exercise to occasionally walk the path implied by the (usually negatively critical) term from classical philosophy and go reductio ad absurdum when planning a meal. Instead of thinking about what you can add to make it better, think about what you can leave out (heat or salt for example). The same applies to cooking tools. Try boning a raw chicken with your fingers (it’s easier than you think) or cook an entire meal using only one knife, or one pot.
And if all of that seems too daunting, well then, try visualizing someone else doing the cooking.
Friday, May 23, 2008
My unsolicited assessment:
This only qualifies as a kitchen junk drawer in the sense that it's loaded with junk. But it has far too many kitchen tools in it, and what's worse, is that it is too well-organized: the nested measures, the basket full of like-sized tools, the knives all pointing northward. Clearly the drawer's creators realize that the best way to avoid large increases in entropy is to expend a bit of energy to maintain order (WTF am I trying to say?)
On the bright side:
The only thing that does not belong in a kitchen drawer (and so counts as a point towards making this a true kitchen junk drawer) is the bulb syringe, which I believe is used in animal breeding.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Keys that know no locks, cheap screwdrivers (no one ever puts good tools in kitchen junk drawers) batteries, booklets that should have been tossed or burned years ago and a femur pen. And, unless you factor in the symbolic value of the nylon spinal cord, not a trace of anything that has anything to do food or cooking. These drawers, by the family of Val and Phil, are classic species of the genre of kitchen junk drawer.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Pure poetry in stasis.
Everyone has at least one drawer in their kitchen that is full of crap that has little or nothing to do with the kitchen's reason-to- be. As it turns out, I have 6 drawers that are filled with stuff that has no apparent use in food preparation. Here are some photos of four of the jammedest (sic).
If you would like to send me photos of your junk drawer I will post them. Just make sure to tell me if you would like your name posted along with the picture (s) for attribution. Otherwise I will not post any information (other than what is already in the picture) that will identify you or your location.
I'm sure I'm posting this for a reason other than wanting to arouse prurient interest in one and another's drawers. No one with a fully functioning central nervous system needs to have their curiosity piqued about what other's usually try to conceal. But perhaps this post is for the rest of us?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
*Dr. Sanscravat is a nom de plume of Gary Allen, one of my friends from the "food, cooking and eating is the context in which everything makes the most sense" plane of existence." That's him down there on the right.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
This is not a joke
Vermont law makers recently passed a bill doubling the limit on the sale of raw milk from 25 quarts to 50 quarts per day; and lifted the groundless ban on advertising. At $5 to $7 a gallon, 50 quarts per day is still just a small step in significantly affecting the viability of Vermont farms however, it is a leg-up. [Source]
But it sure sounds like one to me. Fifty quarts a day is next to nothing. Why doesn't Vermont simply make it legal for dairies that pass inspection to sell raw milk and let the public decide how much milk it wants to buy?
Clout Street - local political coverage | Chicago Tribune | Blog
About 80 protesters upset about the repeal of Chicago's foie gras ban are holding a candlelight vigil outside City Hall Friday night.
Besides candles, the demonstrators also are holding up signs with photos of ducks that were overfed to produce foie gras. One grisly photo showed a duck with a beak that allegedly was broken when a feeding tube was jammed down its throat.
The signs read: "Delicacy of despair" and "Too cruel to swallow."
But not many people are around to notice the protest, which began hours after City Hall closed for the week.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Posted by Dan Mihalopoulos at 2:05 p.m.
With Mayor Richard Daley running the vote, the Chicago City Council on Wednesday repealed its controversial ban on foie gras.
Over the shouted objections of Ald. Joe Moore (49th), the ban's sponsor, the council used a parliamentary manuever to put the ordinance on the floor for a vote.
The council voted 37-6 to repeal the two-year-old ban, which critics argued had made Chicago--and the City Council--a national laughingstock.
Ald. Thomas Tunney (44th), a restaurant owner,forced the vote on the measure that prohibits restaurants in the city from serving the delicacy made from the engorged livers of ducks or geese.
Moore, whose pleas for a debate were ignored by Daley, warned fellow aldermen "tomorrow it could happen to you."
I'm too busy with other things right now (e.g. researching the design for a bread oven for the farm) to comment on the transcript of this intriguing interview with Chef Grant Achatz other than to suggest that if you take cooking seriously enough to consider some of its existential elements, you ought to read it.
The interviewer, Anne McBride, works at the Institute for Culinary Education in NYC and is also teaching while pursuing a doctorate at New York University's food studies program. I met Ms. McBride recently during a trip to NYC's Little India in Jackson Heights, Queens. Ms. McBride is, I believe, a student of Krishnendu Ray
a good friend and former colleague of mine at the Culinary Institute of America.
The Institute of Culinary Education: Getting into the Kitchen
See the related article on food carving in today's NYT. Or not.
Indians bristle at U.S. criticism on food prices - International Herald Tribune
Monday, May 12, 2008
In response to several cases of staph and salmonella infections that were thought to have been contracted when some humans ate dog meat, health officials in Seoul, South Korea want to have dogs reclassified as "livestock" so their husbandry and processing into meat -which is actually banned in S. Korea- can be regulated.
This has apparently ticked off both dog-as-pet lovers who don't want to see dog eating legitimized and dog farmers who think that having to conform to the health regulations will raise their costs.
I'm not kidding, I read it in The Wall Street Journal.
But then on the other hand, perhaps if a gifted British chef does a bang up job on presenting dishes of gray squirrel to the public they will go for it. As these photos of cooked rat and guinea pig show, presentation is very critical to a diner's acceptance of food proffered
Sunday, May 11, 2008
"Organic fruits and vegetables contain 40 percent more nutrients than their chemical-fed counterparts. And animals raised on pasture provide us with meat and dairy products containing more beta carotene and at least three times as much C.L.A. (conjugated linoleic acid, shown in animal studies to reduce the risk of cancer) than those raised on grain."Change We Can Stomach - New York Times
"conventional produce appears to contain consistently higher levels of protein and beta carotene."
"There are plenty of good reasons to eat organic produce and yak cheese and grass-fed beef. In the end, neither exaggerated virtues nor skeptical grains of salt will make them any more delicious. Forget the fatty acids. I just want to get a taste of that wild Himalayan milk."
Let's Take a Closer Look at That Study on Yak Cheese NYT
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I think this might just be the case in the fight between anti- foie gras activists from Vancouver and a restaurateur who claims that she is a) not currently selling foie gras and that when she does b) she serves liver from geese from Pateria de Sousa which have not been force fed.
Anywho (sic)...one thing I am sure of is that we can look forward to a big up-tick in anti-foie, animal rights activity as the weather warms up in the Northern Hemisphere. I suppose if I were a nastier character than I aspire to be, I would at this point make a bigoted and physiologically uninformed comment about vegans who are unwilling to walk picket lines in the winter months because they lack adequate nutrition and who, if they truly cared so much about ducks and geese, ought to consider eating Ritalin and buying down jackets so they could harass restaurateurs 24/7/365. But that kind of stuff, while amusing to write, is not especially helpful.
Paté flap ensnares eatery
Valerie Barbour, the owner the restaurant (Basque in Vancouver) serving foie gras from geese that were not force fed, has caved under pressure from anti-foie gras activists who sought to stop her from serving foie-gras from force fed geese.
Sorry, but I'm not making this up. Truth is that these anti-foie people will not stop until all meat is illegal. Mark my word.
Oops, I almost forgot. Happy Mother's Day! Please make sure that you all honor the spirit of the intentions that motivated the merchants and retail entities that created this excellent day and spend lots of money on food, flowers and gifts for anyone who bears the title of "Mother."
Me, I'm sending flowers to the grave site of one of the greatest mothers of all,
Friday, May 9, 2008
I've long believed that the big scare over MSG in the late 1980's that resulted in what amounted to a national boycott of Chinese restaurants in the US was as much an expression of xenophobia as it was any genuine (if misplaced) concerns over the alleged negative health affects of mono sodium glutamate. And how much of the typical "foodies" rejection of bland, genetically altered and chemically treated factory-farmed produce and meat is a rejection of the food itself and how much is an indictment of the people who produce it?
South Korean internet geeks trigger panic over US 'tainted beef' imports - Times Online
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Today I ran across a painting by Max Beckman at the Tate Modern (which is housed in an old power station but could easily be mistaken for a gigantic crematorium) that seems to have gotten so deep into my skin that I will probably be only a little bit surprised if something horrible and bone-cracking hatches out sometime between now and the next sunrise.
The painting, titled Prunier after the Parisian restaurant of the same name, shows three people eating mess of lobster as if they are eating the last meal of their lives. And they very-well might be doing just that. Beckman, a German, painted this while he was living in Holland where he had fled to avoid having to live under the govenment of Hitler. But then the Nazis took Holland, and by the time Beckman painted this in 1944, food rationing had taken it's toll and most people were very hungry indeed.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Frozen Cow Heads Recalled For Risk Of Mad Cow DiseaseA Kansas company is recalling 400,000 pounds of frozen cattle heads because the tonsils were not removed.The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall saying that federal guidelines require the tonsils to be removed because of mad cow disease. If a cow is infected with the disease, tonsil tissue would contain the infection. So the government does not allow a cow's tonsils to be used as human food.