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Welcome to tastingmenu.com. My repository for thoughts and notes on my eating experiences. Hopefully you'll find something enjoyable, entertaining, or informative.


Monday, September 30, 2002 - 11:01PM

It's hard to believe this site has been up for 2 months and I've only just this weekend gone to Nishino. Nishino is the best sushi restaurant in Seattle hands down. Others claim the title. They're wrong. Nishino is simply exquisite. In fact, it's some of the best sushi I've ever had. A few months ago a bunch of us took a class with the chef and restaurant's namesake Tatsu Nishino. In addition to making incredible food, he was a very nice guy. And to top it off her really taught us how to make decent sushi at home. Of course, it can't compare to the restaurant. We knew just how much thought went into the food they create when he told us that they have 3 different vats of rice to choose from when making the sushi depending on whether the customer is eating at the bar, at a table, or taking out. This is incredible attention to detail - and it pays off. The food is delicate, delicious, and creative. Not just the sushi either. Whether it's the miso black cod or the rock shrimp tempura you won't be disappointed. This is probably no surprise as Nishino worked with Nobu Matsuhisa in the past. The other night I was in town and was able to stop in to grab some takeout on my way home. It was a busy night, and I was having a tough time waiting as I had my kid with me. Eri (sp?) Nishino - Tatsu's wife - was able to speed my order through as she also found ways to keep my son entertained - My First Book of Sushi (which our friends Steve and Kira introduced us to) helped a bunch. And this really underscores why Nishino is so fantastic. Given the quality of the food, the restaurant has every right to act like their the best. They don't. The environment is so welcoming and friendly, you just want to go back again and again. I know I will. (One final note, the Madison roll and the Arboretum roll aren't on the menu, but both are delicious. Order them and find out for yourself.)


Friday, September 27, 2002 - 11:34PM

Today we went for lunch at Mayuri on the east side of Seattle. I can't tell whether it was because of the gross food they serve at work or the fact that it was after 1pm and we were starving, but lunch was really yummy. I've been to the lunch buffet before and it's always been decent, but today there were a couple of stars - Chicken Makhani (Chicken cooked in butter sauce) and an Indian version of scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were labeled "Semia Upma/Vermicelli Upma" (also spelled Upama) but as best I can tell that dish is based on vermicelli - not potatoes. (Could it be some kind of Potato Upma?) Whatever it was, it was delicious. Of course, no Indian restaurant outside of Boston has ever served me onion chutney. And in fact, any time I ask for it a restaurant here they look at me like I have three heads. A recipe for it is here (I include olive oil when I make it - eventually I'll post my own perfected recipe. The search continues. Maybe I should make some and bring it to the local Indian restaurants. (BTW, the search also continues for an Indian restaurant in Seattle that blows me away.)

Today at lunch I realized that I needed a special section in the restaurant listings on where to eat a decent lunch if you work at Microsoft.

The LA Times (free registration required) has a cool article on wine vinegar as well as instructions for how to make it yourself.

Last night Debbie made chocolate chip cookies. The recipe came from The Cookie Book - a charity cookbook put out by the Seattle Mariner's Wives. There is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that is out of this world!


Wednesday, September 25, 2002 - 9:25AM

The LA Times has a really interesting article about the state of the wine business. (free registration required)


Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 11:57PM

More on the Chinese food theme. For years I have tried to make decent Chinese food at home.  Finally somebody told me that the problem was likely my wok. Throw out that fancy wok. Forget that non-stick crap. Go buy the cheapest steel wok you can find. I had to "season" my wok - a process of basically burning several layers of oil into the surface of the wok. This created a shitload of smoke - so you may want to do this with the windows open and nobody else home. Bottom line, I have made 4 or 5 recipes since I did this and each was unbelievably different/good than my years of crappy Chinese food. My new cheap wok gets hotter than any of my other ones ever did. To really do things right I went out and bought 3 Chinese cookbooks. Each are beautiful to look at (I like lots of pictures) and helped me make great wok recipes. They include The Food of China, Martin Yan's Asian Favorites: From Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, and Ken Hom's Quick Wok.

First thing I ever wrote about on this site was about our deep fried Twinkie party. Debdu forwarded this article on the subject. Leslie thinks that we should have used tempura batter and virgin oil for the rotofryer.

Debdu also forwarded this weird/cool site on airline food. I'm not saying that I've never had a decent meal on a plane, but there's something about the pictures on this site that makes me feel yucky. I did find it neat to see what meals they serve on Iran Air.


Monday, September 23, 2002 - 11:57PM

Went to Shanghai Garden in Issaquah tonight with Chris, Leslie, Alex, and Lauren. I am a huge fan of Chinese food. I'm still searching for world class in Seattle and I'm afraid it may not exist, though Vancouver has it a couple of hours to the north. So I'll settle for really really good Chinese food. One of the perennial favorites is Shanghai Garden in the international district of Seattle. The Issaquah one is a branch of the downtown version. The food actually seems a little less refined to me, but good nonetheless. They also have a nice aquarium. Just so you know, the best chinese food I've ever had had a lightness and freshness about it that is the antithesis of gloppy/drowning in sauce Chinese dishes. Shanghai Garden wasn't drowning, but it didn't fee light by any means either. The dumplings were pretty pedestrian, but there was a star of the show - the hand shaved noodles. They were yummy. We had the barleygreen variety. (Though I'm not sure why they're so worried about the health of my colon. If I'd realized what it was I probably wouldn't have eaten it on principle.) The hot and sour soup was pretty good too. If you're on the eastside of Seattle, Shanghai Garden Issaquah is an easy choice to make.


Sunday, September 22, 2002 - 3:57PM

I've been looking for a very good Italian restaurant in Seattle for some time. It's been awhile since I've been to Assaggio, and I remember it as being very good. Last night we went back.  For starters, the restaurant was too cold. I froze my ass off. I mentioned something to the waiter as we were seated. Nothing appeared to come of my request as things never got warmer, and nobody ever bothered to check if we were warmed up. Bummer. Despite that, dinner was decent. The best dishes (or elements thereof) were pretty good. These included the: filet (though the red wine risotto it came with was not good), the veal of the veal picatta (though the beans it came with were just ok), and the insalata di francesca - apples and pears marinated with lemon with Italian gorgonzola, honeyed pistachios, mixed greens, and balsamic vinaigrette. The prosciutto was yummy too, but it's hard to screw that up. The pastas - especially the penne arrabbiata (not on the menu), and the penne alla vodka - penne tossed with pancetta ham, green onions, peppercorns, and vodka in a tomato cream sauce. However, the green fettucine special with crab was just ok, as was the spaghetti Bolognese, the insalata caprese, and the spinaci con senape - spinach, onion, lemon, and pinenuts, drizzled with mustard. Bottom line, the meal was too inconsistent to be a place that I love. All the more disappointing since I'd had such good memories of it from the last time I went. One highlight was the 1997 Robert Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon that Alex brought. Super good. As far as a really amazing Italian restaurant - I probably would go back to Assaggio - but the hunt continues.


Friday, September 20, 2002 - 10:26AM

It's hard to believe, but I haven't eaten at Lampreia since I started this website. That's a problem, given that it's my favorite restaurant in Seattle. Last night we went with Alex and Lauren to enjoy Lampreia again. I was a little nervous as I've heard that recently on a couple of occasions it hasn't lived up to expectations. But last night was fantastic as expected. Alex brought a bottle of the 1997 Beringer Bancroft Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon which was super - very tannic like I like it. Dinner proceeded as follows: Alex, had the "All About Apples" tasting menu. Debbie and I ordered a la carte. And Lauren left it up to the chef to prepare her a series of vegetarian dishes. The tasting menu started with buck eye apple filled with foie gras and glazed chestnuts. Literally the apple wedge was filled mostly with foie gras and shaped to resemble the original slice of apple. It was cool - and tasty. Things proceeded with braised endive with marinated salmon slices and granny smith apple compote, savoy cabbage veloute with fuji apple gelee and san daniele ham (nothing like getting to the bottom of your soup to find some yummy ham), and farm pork tenderloin lightly spiced and roasted with potatoes and cider sauce in cocotte. Some of the other dishes included speck served with warm ricotta dumplings and white truffle oil, sauteed foie gras with italian plums, an amazing poached farm egg with "authentic culatello", zucchini flowers and preserved summer truffles cut up into a caviar like consistency - amazing, unbelievable deep ocean prawns cooked "alla tajine" with Lampreia preserved tomatoes and what seemed like tiny pepperoni slices - even without the sides the flavor of the prawn cooked in its own juices was amazingly flavorful, scottocciere cheese canneloni with a light and delicious veal glaze - one of my favorites, "fine hen" duck breast (that was almost like a steak) lacquered in five spice with fruit mustards, and the best entree of the evening - oven roasted veal chop with zest of lemon and rosemary - incredibly juicy, tender, savory, and delicious. We were stuffed but a couple of dessert moments must be mentioned. The epoisses cheese - a double cream cheese from Burgundy, France, that's flavored with burgundy - was pretty damn delicious. We ate every last bit. The hot clafoutis (somewhere between a custard and a cake) filled with blueberries and raspberries instead of the typical wild cherries. While the food was fantastic there was an incident where we were debating whether to order an additional dish, and I said "no big deal, if we're still hungry we'll order more." The waiter immediately cautioned me that the this wouldn't fly, and essentially I wouldn't be allowed to add anything (other than dessert) after my order. I appreciate the absolute focus on controlling as many factors as possible so that my dining experience ends up being perfect, but I have to say that the waiter's comment kind of put me off for the evening, and in subsequent visits, I've had a tiny lingering worry that I might be chastized for making some "inappropriate" request.  No matter how great the food, I should feel comfortable. I read a restaurant book once that talked about how the service folks were trained to never say "no". This is a hard thing as sometimes the real answer is no, but an interesting perspective nonetheless. Bottom line, even with this wrinkle (which I hope will eventually smooth out over time), the experience is so wonderful that I go back time and time again. It's very worth it, and the menu changes often enough that I will go back again and again.

By the way, I went to Taqueria Guadalajara for lunch again yesterday. It was even better than the first time. Make sure to order your tacos with sour cream.


Thursday, September 19, 2002 - 11:58PM

The BBC has a cool guide to European cooking schools. I want to go.


Tuesday, September 17, 2002 - 11:11PM

Leslie forwarded me this list from NASFT of the winners of their latest food competition. I want to go to one of their Fancy Food shows.

Here's something weird - sour Pez. I tried it. Weird flavors like pineapple, but actually it was pretty good. Of course, still not as sour as I would like.


Monday, September 16, 2002 - 12:36PM

Time to upgrade a bunch of stuff around the house. Any wine that I keep over here (most of it is over at Alex' wine cellar) is in danger of cooking, and the pots and pans are what my parent's gave me when I went to college. I think they're from the 70's. On the wine cooler/cellar/fridge front I decided that it won't be until we move into the next house that we have the wine storage capacity for all our wine... so I went cheap. There were tons of options: K&L has a guide, as does wine.com, as well as the October issue of Bon Appetit (not on the web yet). Ultimately I decided to go as cheap as possible just for the wine I need on hand. I ended up with the $250 Kenmore 24 Bottle Wine Cooler. I also finally decided on new pots and pans from All-Clad. Getting some stainless as well as some of the LTD series. Amazon has deals now where you can get a free All-Clad tool set when you buy All-Clad sets.


Sunday, September 15, 2002 - 12:29PM

Last night we went to Ruby's in Seattle's University District with Lauren and Alex. It was actually my second time there but I don't remember much about our first visit as it was awhile ago. Ruby's is an eclectic southeast Asian/Indian/middle eastern mix of cuisines. We started with crusty bread with oil infused with sea salt, basil, cayenne, ginger, and black pepper. The basil really came through in a good way. However, almost nothing could compare to the tiger prawns in ancho chile sauce on a bed of spinach. They were bursting with flavor and frankly superb. We were mopping up the sauce with extra bread until the plate was clean. The entree's were yummy as well with the best being the south Indian chicken bowl with red bell pepper, spinach, cilantro, sweet mango, and pickle on a bed of jasmine rice. Everyone else got bowl's as well - Indonesian peanut sambal - good flavor, but a little gloopy, seven spice beef with baby bok choy, scallions, ginger, in black bean sauce, and persian fessenjoon with tofu, red pepper, and potatoes, on a bed of couscous. Overall definitely interesting. The highlights were definitely the prawns and the Indonesian chicken. I would definitely go back but probably not soon considering how many other interesting restaurants there are to explore in the University district.

My friend Roee recently ate at Morimoto. His comments made me reread my review from our recent trip to Philadelphia. The question before us was - which is better - Morimoto or Nobu in NYC. Even though I haven't been to Nobu since this website started, it's definitely one of the restaurants I love. Morimoto was recently the head chef at Nobu in NYC before he started his own place. I still love Morimoto but I agree with Roee's observations that while the best moments of Morimoto were even better than Nobu (miso black cod, rock shrimp tempura, Morimoto sashimi, etc.) overall Morimoto was not as consistent and Nobu's average quality was higher. I still recommend going there as we're talking a pretty high bar for comparison, but it would be good for Morimoto to get more consistent. The fact that the restaurant's namesake was not on premises with the restaurant only open for a couple of months when we went might suggest some degree of over-confidence. I still say when in Philadelphia, definitely go to Morimoto.

I mostly finished redoing the layout and flow of the restaurants part of the website. Much easier to navigate I think.


Saturday, September 14, 2002 - 10:35AM

I have never been a huge fan of Mexican food. Before I lived in Seattle, I lived in Northern California. For awhile I worked in Watsonville, California just south of Santa Cruz. Watsonville is an agricultural community with a large Mexican population. It was there that I first had unbelievable (and what I later came to understand was authentic) Mexican food. It was light, it was fresh, it was not smeared with refried beans. Turns out I'm not a huge fan of Americanized Mexican food. (Can I say that since Mexico is in continental America? Oh well.) Up in Seattle there used to be a video store/tacqueria that had incredible (what I assumed were authentic) tacos and other Mexican goodies. They closed, but just yesterday I discovered Tacquera (that's how they spelled it on their sign) Guadalajara housed in a small trailer, parked in the parking lot of the 76 gas station at the corner of 148th Avenue NE  and NE 24th Street in Bellevue. They don't have an address, but they make incredible food. There's only 5 or 6 items on the menu including the pork (Al Pastor) and steak (Azada) tacos both in double soft corn tortillas, with grilled onions and cilantro. Ask for sour cream and add some of the green or red hot sauce and you'll be in heaven. The Tortas - mexican sandwich - steak on a baguette with sour cream, lettuce, and jalapeno peppers, was delicious. They serve Jarritos sodas - mandarin orange, tamarind, and grapefruit flavor. By the way, the food is also super cheap. Since I've still never been to Mexico I really don't know what I'm talking about, but if the food there is anything like this, then I'm all over it.

Seattle Citysearch has a list of what they claim to be the most authentic Mexican restaurants in the city. I haven't tried them yet, but I'm leary.

Last night Alex cooked two great recipes for us that he found on Wine Spectator. First up was Carmelized Salmon with Orange Shoyu Glaze. I recently started acquiring the tasted for Cilantro (which I didn't used to be a fan of ) and the more cilantro/ginger/pepper mix that was on the salmon the better. Super good. For dessert there was Asian Pair and Macadamia Wontons. I couldn't find Asian pears at Larry's, but the bosc pears were an able substitute. We ate these yummy fried dumplings with Haagen Dazs Vanilla ice cream and the last of my homemade Scharffen Berger chocolate fudge sauce. Delicious.


Thursday, September 12, 2002 - 10:44PM

Here's a guilty pleasure - Kellogg's Special K Red Berries Cereal. I don't even know what Special K tastes like, and frankly I'm not sure how a the Red Berries variety ended up in my house, but I love it. The flakes are not quite frosted, but definitely sweet. And while desiccated strawberry slices don't sound delicious, they are in fact quite tasty - nice and tart. This is likely a phase.

I'm not a big coconut fan, but in Asian food I'm all of a sudden happy it's there. The New York Times (free registration required) talks about an Indonesian coconut dish called Urupan.

Click to ViewThe San Francisco Chronicle has a recipe for "black bottom cupcakes". They look super delicious. I just got immediately sucked in by the picture with the cream cheese middle. (I also have gotten complaints from friends that there aren't any pictures on this site... so here you go.) There's a bunch of other recipes here for homemade desserts as well.

It's apparently pretty easy to turn balsamic vinegar into a glaze. Lauren loves balsamic vinegar. She'll want to try this.

The Sopranos is back on TV this Sunday night. I am so psyched!!! Want to make Italian dinner that goes with the show? Check out these recipes from the new Sopranos cookbook. (Sopranos cookbook? Yes. Sopranos cookbook. Shameless? Yes. But I still love the show.)


Wednesday, September 11, 2002 - 11:25PM

The food service company that runs the cafeterias at my workplace is called Eurest. There's a reason their name sounds like "urine". These days I can't last more than 15 seconds in one of the cafeterias before I need to run off campus for lunch.

Yesterday, lunch was at Sapporo Teriyaki in Redmond. Most teriyaki places put too much gloop on their teriyaki. Sapporo really does a great job grilling their meat (sans gloop), and also doles it out in huge quantities. Cheap, quick, yummy, and plentiful. Great!

Today, lunch was at Malay Satay Hut in Redmond. It's been awhile but I've been to their Seattle branch a bunch of times and it was fantastic. That restaurant was destroyed by fire and is being rebuilt. This was my third trip to the brand new Redmond version, and while it hasn't struck me in nearly the way the original did, it's been getting steadily better. The Indonesian chicken was pretty yummy for lunch and the Roti Canai appetizer (yummy bread and some type of curry-ish sauce with potatoes) is a must! I need to make this.  I'll hope their improvement trend continues in the same direction and maybe someday they can approach the greatness of the Seattle location. The Seattle Times seems to agree.


Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 7:52AM

Japanese food meets the cuisine of the old west at the Gateway Cafe in Colorado. Interesting.

In England, Rick Stein has a TV show where he goes around the country trying various local food specialties. Among the food he tries on this week's show are garlic fudge and the once extinct Blue Vinny cheese.

Sometimes I wonder if the only way to get certain east coast foods out here in Seattle is to make them myself. Here's a guide to making your own pizza. No clue if it makes east coast pizza.

We're going on a pilgrimage to the French Laundry soon. KipLog pointed me to Confabulist.com which has detailed accountings of many folks' trips to Napa to eat at the French Laundry.

I'm embarassed to admit that sometimes I'll go into our local high end supermarket - Larry's - get some prosciutto at the deli counter, and by the time I get to the checkout, it's all been eaten. Where does this yummy ham come from? Here's the official version.


Monday, September 9, 2002 - 9:17AM

Here's a whole bunch of food events. The James Beard Foundation has a cool calendar of food events. Especially good if you're a member and live in NYC. More on some of the latest events here. The Kohler (people who make the faucets) Food and Wine Experience is October 25-27. Hawaii hosts the Big Island Festival at the end of October. Thomas John from Mantra will be one of the visiting chefs. Food and Wine's Entertaining Showcase is in Chicago on November 13 featuring Charlie Trotter and others.

New trends in chocolate from the Seattle Times. Related chocolate recipes are listed here.

Something about this recipe for Stilton Cheese Twists makes my mouth water.

Going to Vegas... thinking about eating at Picasso at the Bellagio. Sounds really good.


Sunday, September 8, 2002 - 9:24AM

Last night we went out to dinner at El Gaucho. El Gaucho is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle. It's not necessarily for its creativity as it's a pretty straightforward pseudo-Argentinean (the beef may be from Argentina - which is a good thing, but that's about it as far as I can tell) steak house. But the quality of the food is superb and the atmosphere is very cool. I always forget which cut to go for... but I was reminded last night as the Filet Mignon is more tender, but the New York while being more fatty is more flavorful. I went for the New York and was not disappointed. The tuna tartare they serve is also delicious with excellent spices, onions, capers, and pine nuts. Their garlic bread is to die for. And the wicked shrimp are awesome - shrimp in a spicy buttery sauce. Don't forget the wine - we had their second to last bottle of the Kalin Cellars 1992 Sonoma Cab that I mentioned below. We ate downstairs at the Pampas room where the jazz starts at 8:30PM. Definitely fun, but make sure to get the true super-hip El Gaucho atmosphere by eating upstairs. The tableside caesar salad and bananas foster are worth it. If you can get a private room and have about 6 or 7 people, try and get the 410 room. You sit throughout the meal surrounded in close quarters by tons of great wine. You can almost reach from your chair onto a shelf and grab bottles to drink. Final note, the service wasn't fantastic last night from our server... though the assistant sommelier who helped us was just great. I think this was an anomaly as the service there is typically flawless.

We may be going to Vegas in a few weeks. Gotta figure out what new restaurant to try. Alex sent this link to a huge wine event happening in Vegas - the California Wine Experience.


Friday, September 6, 2002 - 8:08AM

I mentioned having a honey tasting the other day. There are "over 300 types of honey in the United States alone."

This is pretty cool. Making chicken soup into grilled chicken soup.

More Rosh Hashana stories and recipes from SFGate, and the Washington Post.

Sweet, salty, sour, and bitter - is there a fifth taste? One of my favorite wines is the 1992 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon from Kalin Cellars. Kalin says their wines - which are only released after 3-10 years after bottling - are some of the few who have Umami.

I just got this book on Daniel Boulod's quest to regain its New York Times' fourth star. I'll let you know how it is once I read it.


Thursday, September 5, 2002 - 8:29AM

Might as well tell you now, that a bunch of us are scheduled to go to the French Laundry in October. It's purportedly the best restaurant in the country. The New York Times (free registration required) talks about a visit to the French Laundy. I'll post more French Laundry related items over the next few weeks. I'm very excited to go.

The New York Times (free registration required) also has an article about fried cheese. They try to fancy it up by calling it "frico del fattore" but it's still fried cheese. Yummy.

Visiting San Francisco? Gourmet talks about their favorite SF restaurants. (Weird bug though that the pictures for each restaurant are identical.)


Tuesday, September 3, 2002 - 11:59PM

A recent lunch time adventure in the eastside area of Seattle - everyone's favorite Vietnamese chain - Pho Hoa (from my understanding named after a famous restaurant of the same name in Saigon).  This is a funny chain. I've been to franchises in Seattle as well as in the bay area. The food is fine. Not amazing, but definitely decent - especially in a pinch for lunch. My search for the best Vietnamese food in Seattle continues. The best on the eastside (culled from not a huge amount of choices) is clearly Papaya Vietnamese Cuisine located in the incredible odd Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, WA. (Essentially the worst mall ever with the best food court ever - a collection of small, independently owned, ethnic eateries.) Of course, I expect to find gold just south of Seattle's international district where I've salivated while driving past many tiny Vietnamese noodle shops. Someday soon I'll start working my way through them. 

More Rosh Hashana food - including a recipe for Apple Fruit Leather. How can you not be interested in trying a dish that includes the word "leather" in it's name (and even edible by vegetarians).

Monday, September 2, 2002 - 11:09AM

Added a new section to the website listing any food-related events I come across. Hopefully I'll even get to go to a few. Here's a new one - the Culinary Arts Festival in Bermuda. Guillermo Pernot from Pasion in Philadelphia (where we recently ate) will be there among others.

I love street food. There's good stuff almost everywhere on the planet. Not sure what it is about fast food dished out of small (questionably clean) carts on the street, but it's almost always super yummy. Here's a "review" (not super critical one way or another) of a new book - Mediterranean Street Food.

I don't know why this makes me laugh - the Dallas Morning News has free food wallpaper. Bacon desktop.

It's probably about a year-and-a-half before the next PillsburyBake-Off. You can be notified the moment they have details on when to submit your recipe.

Last night, Chris and Leslie had their annual Labor Day Luau. Along with all the fancy food for grownups there was macaroni and cheese from the box. It was comforting to eat. That said, I agree that Annie's boxed mac and cheese is the best. Here's a recipe for macaroni and cheese as served at Mel's Bar and Grill in Denver.

More Rosh Hashana food discussion - tex-mex style. And betterbaking.com has a ton of Rosh Hashana recipes including the Rugulah Roundup.


August 2002 is archived here.












Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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