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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.


Thursday, January 30, 2003, 11:59PM

One more note about New Year's... Alex reminded me about all the other great bottles of wine we drank, including: the 1999 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon (for comparison with the '76 we had below) which we first tried at Charlie Trotter's, 1990 Long Cabernet Sauvignon, 1992 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 1987 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon that was the star of the evening.


Wednesday, January 29, 2003, 12:43AM

11-instructions.jpgIt's time to write about how we spent our New Year's eve. The fact that it's almost a month since then shows you how much of a backlog I have of cool food things to write about. I hope to catch up soon. Every year, Alex and Lauren throw a great New Year's fondue party. This is a meal that I look forward to for months. Last year we tried to get creative and bring tempura (in addition to the various fondues). We figured battering and deep frying shrimp was kind of fondueish. This year was another extravaganza - and this time we got pictures. In addition to the great food, Alex always opens a ton of good wine from his cellar. Things started off hopeful with a magnum of 1976 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon. Actually it seemed to have been past its prime and was not great. Alex had a bottle of the same a few months ago that was fantastic. So it goes with older wine. Scary considering how expensive it can be. Pouring the wine was cool though as they did it next to a bright light to look for sediment. After we started in on a plate full of mozarella and tomatoes, the sushi Peyman and Debdu brought in from Nishino got everyone in the right mood - especially the Kampachi Tamarizushi. But no New Year's party is complete without many kinds of fondue. It all starts with Alex' Fondues of the World cookbook. Lots of melting alcoholic cheese and tons of bread for dipping. Meat fondue? No problem. Sauces for the deep fried meat cubes? We brought plenty. Vegetables are available also! Leslie also brought what basically amounts to fondue from a different angle - Raclette. Basically you take some Raclette and put it in this melting tray. Once it's melted you scrape it off onto some bread and pop it in your mouth. Super melty and delicious. Those Swiss know how to live. And finally, what would dessert be without two different dessert fondues - chocolate and caramel. Another successful - and delicious - new year's. I can't wait until next year!


Tuesday, January 28, 2003, 11:59PM

This looks like a cool magazine - The Art of Eating - Quarterly By Edward Behr. I'm going to subscribe.

Martha has a new food magazine - Everyday Food. The Boston Globe writes about it here. As with everything she does - it looks great!

Wondering what restaurant you might be checking out if you lived in Tokyo? How about Applause?

We recently had a great grilled cheese sandwich at a pretty upscale restaurant (more on that in an upcoming review). But there's something about melted cheese and comfort food that just makes me happy. The San Jose Mercury News writes about the tuna melt. They include a sidebar about the history of this sandwich as well as recipes for Tombo Tuna Melt and others.


Sunday, January 26, 2003, 11:42PM

A bunch of us recently went out to Restaurant Zoe in Belltown in Seattle. It was a cold rainy night and we had a relatively late reservation. While some folks in our party were pretty late, that didn't stop the restaurant from keeping us waiting at least 30 minutes past our reservation time. A little bit of a bummer considering they have no practical space for people to wait other than the bar (which was full). Dinner started off with cold focaccia served with mixed oil and balsamic on a plate. While the quantity of vinegar was a good sign, the cold focaccia was eh. Lauren was pissed. I wouldn't go that far myself, but I do wonder why every restaurant doesn't serve warm bread. It's easy, it's yummy, it starts off the meal on a surprisingly comfortable note - in short, a no brainer. We were thinking about our new "Tasting Menu Philosophy" around eating much smaller portions. We weren't that good at it yet though. We started off with Fresh Artichoke Salad with Tomatoes, Cured Lemons, Kalamat Olives, Watercress, Charred Onions and Herb Coulis. Next up was Albacore Tuna Tartare with Cucumber Coulis, Horseradish Vinaigrette, Potatoes, Micro Greens, and Truffle Oil. The cucumbers were there to cut the horseradish but they over did it as the dish was kind of mild and boring. Additionally some of the dishes (as well as the bread) were served too cold. The Pan Seared Sweetbreads with Smoked Bacon, Crisp Pickled Pear, Honey Roasted Onion, and Sherry Dressing and Greens was quite delicious - great in fact. The Duck Confit with French Lentils, Sun-Dried Cherries, and Greens was very good as well.  Alex felt it was better than "very good". Moist and flavorful were the words that he used to describe the duck. The Squash Soup with Creme Fraiche was fine but also somewhat uninteresting. Entrees (which we should have ordered fewer or done a better job splitting) included a waiter-recommended House Smoked Hanger Steak that was not flavorful with a variety of non-descript overcooked vegetables. On the other hand, the Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Parsnip Flan, Pickled Ciopollini Onions, Smoked Bacon, Pea Tendrils, Carrot Vinaigrette, and Truffle Oil was flavorful and balanced, and the Beet Risotto with Goat Cheese, Balsamic Reduction, and Pea Vines was surprisingly flavorful. We brought a bottle of 1999 Brothers In Arms Australian Shiraz which was quite round, and the interesting mixed drinks from the bar were all somewhat sweet. Some nice moments at Restaurant Zoe (the sweetbreads and the risotto to name a couple) but overall the evening was pretty inconsistent.


Saturday, January 25, 2003, 11:59PM

Vietnamese food can be really exquisite. I'm still looking for the best Vietnamese experience in Seattle. A couple of weeks ago we went to Binh Huong in Seattle's International District for lunch. I was surprised that they didn't serve Pho - classic Vietnamese beef and noodle soup. But I spoke to the (super amicable) owner who told me that he also owns Pho So #1 nearby and wanted to do something different. Sounds good to me. The place was packed during lunch but the turnover was quick. Everything was delicious and interesting, though I did long for the classic Pho Bo Vien and Goi Cuon. Got time for lunch downtown? You can't go wrong with Binh Huong.


Thursday, January 23, 2003, 7:38AM

I love leftover pasta cause I can always make fritata. The Los Angeles times (free registration required) has a mexican variation.

The Fancy Food Show happened in San Francisco.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003, 11:59PM

An Obsession with Food talks about Reidel wine glasses. Is there really a difference?

I made dinner the other night and it came out pretty decent. A small amount of weirdly shaped macaroni covered in a fondue like alfredo sauce. Then a blackened piece of sashimi quality tuna with one of Tom Douglas' rubs. The cool part was the wasabi aioli I whipped up. (Does it count as aioli if I used Miracle Whip as a base instead of eggs and oil?) Drizzled that on top of the tuna (which was perched atop the macaroni) and then some diced nectarine at the very top. Honestly? It was pretty damn good, and took about two seconds to make. Cool!

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is opening 66 - Haute Chinese Cuisine in New York City by Chinese New Year on February 1 (free registration required). We're going to New York soon, but probably won't have time to get there this trip. Maybe next time.

Thinking about a trip to London as well. The London times lists their top 10 restaurants.


Monday, January 20, 2003, 11:59PM

Sorry for the constant whining, but I still haven't found amazing Thai food in Seattle. Lauren suggested Jai Thai in Fremont as a possibility. So we went. Not much to say about this place. We had high hopes and they weren't met. The atmosphere was cool. Maybe a little too cool. We were made to wait 25-30 minutes past our reservation time for a table. That didn't really bother me though. The main issue was the food. Uninspired,  run-of-the-mill, Thai fare dominated the evening. Nothing we ate stands out in my mind and it was only a couple of weeks ago. If I can't remember even one dish then I really can't think of any reason to go back. They have other locations on Northgate Way and in Belltown on 1st Avenue. No clue if those are any better. Bummer.


Sunday, January 19, 2003, 11:59PM

There's a new Chinese restaurant in Redmond Town Center - Golden Chopsticks. To set the context properly please understand the following, there's basically no world class Chinese food in Seattle... so the bar is not terribly high. The best overall Chinese food is good (not great), and the best dim sum is barely above mediocre. This is a pretty big disappointment for me. Being able to get decent Chinese food for lunch when you work at Microsoft is not a bad thing to be able to do. Golden Chopsticks seems to fit the bill. The food was fresh and flavorful. The restaurant claims to have a "modern" bent. The most notable thing I saw was the huge 20-25 person table perfect for bringing your team out for lunch at a relatively inexpensive Chinese restaurant. The food was also not "gloopy" which is a common problem for Chinese restaurants. All in all you won't be unhappy if you need a quick and decent lunch. I'll need to try it a couple of more times to see if there's more to it than that.


Friday, January 17, 2003, 11:59PM

Over the holiday break we visited Utah for a week. I wasn't certain that we'd have a ton of options for good food. But actually, things were actually not so bleak. We only got one shot and ended up taking the whole family including our one-and-a-half year old to Snake Creek Grill in Heber City (near Park City). Overall dinner was really great. The rustic atmosphere of the restaurant and the incredibly friendly wait and cookstaff sure helped. We sat partly in a banquette which helped with the coziness. The bread was served plain and with huge chunks of garlic in it. You can't go wrong starting off a meal with huge chunks of garlic in pretty much anything. Starters and salads included Wild Mushroom Crostini with Melted Fontina, Arugula, and Picholine Olives, Crisp Corn Cakes with Sweet Pepper Cream and Spice Grilled Shrimp, Grilled Chicken Quessadilla with Two Tomato Salsa and Avocado Cream, Brocolli Potato Leek Soup with Asiago Cheese and Chives, Baby Spinach Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette, Sweet Onions, Pomegranates, Shaved Fennel, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Buzzard's Bay Blue Cheese (the pomegranates really made the salad super delicious as they were a strong presence but a sharp contrast with the cheese), and Smoked Salmon with Lemon Crema on Mozarella Bruschetta with Capers. Entrees (too big as always) included "Belle Isle" Baby Back Ribs with Mopping Sauce and some of the best Cole Slaw I have ever had. My undercooked Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Hand Pressed Tomato Sauce and Garlic Confit with Grilled Spicy Italian Sausage was disappointing even though the sausage was flavorful. Another dish we enjoyed was the Blue Cornmeal Crusted Red Trout with Calypso Beans and Tomatillo-Chipotle Sauce. The most memorable dish of the entire evening (and one that almost got this restaurant in the "Restaurants I LOVE" section was the Macaroni and Cheese. Simple, cheesey (Vermont Cheddar if I recall correctly), with a delicious crumbly topping it was a small bit of heaven in a casserole dish. One of our desserts was the Warm Apple-Cranberry Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream. If they'd served a third as much it would have been perfect. We drank a great bottle of 1997 Jordan Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. I really had a great time at this restaurant and if you ever find yourself stuck in Utah see if you can make your way there. With a little more attention to detail, and much smaller portions Snake Creek Grill could be unstoppable.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003, 11:59PM

Not every restaurant has to be super expensive. And frankly we go out to too many expensive dinners. Some of the best meals I've ever had have cost next to nothing. Cyclops in Seattle is not super cheap, but it's not way expensive either - entrees range from $9 to $17. The best thing to do at Cyclops is stick with my small dish philosophy - order all appetizers. Apps included: Pistachio Crusted Brie served warm with Mango Chutney, Prawn Satay marinated in Achiote with Ginger-Plantain Relish, and Sweet Habanero dipping sauce, (the standard) Tuna Tartar dish with Scallion, Cucumber, Pickled Daikon, and Toasted Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette, and Chicken Quesadillas with Oaxacan cheese and Smoked Salsa Verde. We had at least one of each. Some of the entrees were pretty good too but unfortunately just way too large. Particularly memorable was the Chicken Finocchio Sausage, with Pan Seared Quince and Fennel Bulb, Black Pepper Spaetzle, and Whole Grain Mustard Gravy. I wonder if they would make it up as an appetizer. I had high hopes for the Pasta Proscuitto (hard to make anything with Proscuitto bad) but this dish didn't have a huge amount of flavor. By the way there are pictures all over the walls of the chef?/owner?/both? made up to be a dead-ringer for Boy George. Weird. I didn't realize it wasn't the real Boy George until the end of the meal. Dessert was decent but again too big. They serve my favorite local ice cream - Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream. Bottom line: I would probably go back to Cyclops but the entrees would be off limits or I'd ask for them done as appetizers. Who knows... maybe they would do it.


Sunday, January 12, 2003, 11:25AM

Sunday is for bagels. Not in Seattle where all the bagels suck. I'm working on my own bagel recipe which when it's perfect I will share here. In the meantime we drove by a weird guy waving a sign that there was a new bagel shop in Redmond - Blazing Bagels. Their motto is that their the "Eastside's Best Bagels." Not saying much in my opinion. The guy running the place had just opened his retail operation and had been supplying bagels wholesale for months to various establishments. Where did he get the recipe? He had some consultants in Colorado concoct it for him. Bagels by committee. My Polish-born ancestors are rolling over in their graves. I told him to take a field trip to Toronto to taste some great bagels. I feel bad that his bagels aren't yummy. He seemed like a very nice guy and his operation seemed like a family operation. I really wanted his bagels to be fantastic. Bummer.


Saturday, January 11, 2003, 12:01AM

For a long time one of my favorite restaurants in the San Francisco area has been Straits Cafe. Their self-described "authentic, family-style Singaporean cuisine" is really special. For an added vote of support, Victor - whose family is ethnic Chinese from Singapore - is a big fan of Straits Cafe for authenticity. I'm a big fan because the food is unique and flavorful. Visiting Aliya and Gil in San Francisco I got to try the Palo Alto branch for the first time. One of the stars of any Singaporean meal is Roti Prata - grilled Indian flat bread with curry dipping sauce. This dish is always pretty close to perfection and the Roti Prata served by Straits was no exception. Additional appetizers included yummy Chicken Satay, Vegetarian Curried Samosa with Garlic-Chili Sauce, and the Yu Sang - Tuna Sashimi with Mixed Greens, Pickled Ginger, Ground Peanuts, and  Shallots tossed in a Ginger-Plum dressing topped with Crispy Taro Root. My friend Roee says that the raw tuna dishes that infest appetizer menus these days at every single restaurant you go to are so cliche and boring. It's hard to argue with him. But raw tuna is so damn good it's hard for me to ignore anyway. Theirs was good and interesting. The entrees were super delicious as well. These included dishes like Spicy Garlic Noodles - Wok-tossed Egg Noodles with Black Pepper, Basil, Tomatoes, and Shiitake Mushrooms and Ayam Kalasan - Crispy Chicken Breast filet topped with a Spicy Chili, Garlic, and Lemongrass Sauce. These were outstanding but yet still did not reach the heights of the star of the evening - Nonya Daging Rendang - Singapore Spiced Flat-Iron Steak with Kaffir Lime Leaf Sauce and Sauteed Greens. This dish was absolutely fantastic. The steak was super juicy and unbelievably flavorful. I could have eaten three orders. Absolutely delicious. The funny thing is that as much as I loved the San Francisco edition of Straits (I haven't been there in a couple of years) the Palo Alto restaurant was better than I remember the SF version being. Pretty good. There's a branch in San Jose now and they seem to be calling themselves Straits Restaurant instead of the more modest "Cafe". No matter what, I call them delicious.


Friday, January 10, 2003, 10:34PM


Back on November 25, and 27 I talked about my trip to Korea. One of the things I really enjoy in any country I'm visiting is the street food. I finally got around to posting the pictures of some of the yummy street treats. Fish shaped batter treats filled with sweet bean stuffing? Korean "corn dogs"? Andrews Eggtarts? Roasted chestnuts? It's all there for your enjoyment. Super yummy!


Wednesday, January 8, 2003, 10:47PM

I found out what wine I had at Daniel's - Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet. It was good and pretty inexpensive as well. I had the 99, unfortunately I can't find it anywhere. Up until now I've been pretty much sticking to Cabernets, but I think I may have to dig around and try some Shiraz wines. The best of them appear to have that big bold flavor I love. The top Shiraz wines according to Wine Spectator are also all from Australia. Interesting.

Speaking of wine, the Los Angeles Times (free registration required) talks about some major wine bargains. They also have a cheap wine scorecard.

Martha Stewart has a new magazine - Everyday Food. (free registration required)

And finally, there's a vintage cookbook shop in Seattle.


Tuesday, January 7, 2003, 12:03AM

Seattle has several decent steakhouses and a couple of great ones. Living on the Eastside means that from work we often end up taking people to dinner at the Bellevue branch of Daniel's Broiler. I've been to this restaurant as well as the Seattle branch many times. As far as this location, I have to say that I'm really unimpressed. It's like they have all the trappings of the fun steakhouse experience - big cuts of meat, hearty sauces, huge lobsters, shticky cute service, etc. - but have forgotten the main aspect of the meal - the flavor! The meal was just uninspired. I don't mind a cliched dining experience if the dishes are done well... Daniel's dishes were unfortunately just boring. Low flavor was the overarching theme of the meal. One good thing came out of it as one of the house red wines an Australian Penfolds Cabernet-Shiraz combo that was delicious!


Monday, January 6, 2003, 11:49PM

I had occasion recently to go to Houston. To be perfectly honest I am not a huge fan of Texas. It scares me. And even on the food front I'm not inclined towards the cuisines originating from that area - tex-mex, ribs, southwest, etc. Not terrible, but not at the top of my list. That said Houston is the home of Cafe Annie. Not only is it one of the top 50 restaurants in America according to Gourmet magazine (#28), but I loved it! We showed up at 9pm on a Tuesday night and the place was packed. That immediately made me feel good about the restaurant. Things got better from there. Warm bread on the table soon after we sat down. I love warm bread. Here's what we ate: Wood Grilled Quail and Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Cinnamon Toasted Cornbread and Apricot Serrano Jam, Enchilada of Rabbit with Red Chile Mole, Avocado Relish and Crema Fresca, Tuna Ceviche with Thick Cut Tortilla Chips, and Romaine Salad with Creamy Poblano Parmigiano Reggiano and Croutons.  Things continued with Doublecut Lamb Chops with Potato Burrito, Red Currant, and Pasilla Chile Sauce, BBQ Spiced Yellow Fin Tuna (seared rare) with Black Bean Sauce and Red Jalapeno Vinaigrette and Jicama Slaw, and Wood Grilled Ribeye with Black Voodoo Sauce with Thin Cut Fries. We drank a great 1998 Chateau de Saint Cosme "Valbelle" Gigondas - a red rhone wine as well as an ok local wine - a 2000 Alamosa Wine Cellars Akashic Vineyard Grenache. There was something that just clicked about the entire experience. Whether it was the great food with local ingredients, the warm atmosphere, the fantastic attentive waiter Juan (he removed old bread once it wasn't warm anymore and replace it with fresh), I just had a great authentic experience there. Highly recommended.


Sunday, January 5, 2003, 11:59PM

I just finished reading Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conway. I don't really know a lot about wine. I started drinking red wine on a regular basis about 3 or 4 years ago and have steadily gotten more interested in it to the point where I now have a decent number of bottles myself. Some sit in a wine refrigerator I recently bought at my house; though most are occupying a corner of Alex' awesome wine cellar. My basic principle has been - I drink what tastes good to me. As it happens what "tastes good to me" has so far been relatively narrowly defined as big, bold, Cabernet Sauvignon. Anyway, more on wines that I like later. In the meantime, the book was great. Discusses the soap opera that is Napa Valley. Made me want to start my own winery. There's a sequel I'll start soon - The Far Side of Eden: The Ongoing Saga of Napa Valley.


Friday, January 3, 2003, 11:59PM

I had a food realization over the past couple of days. It's something that's been brewing for some time but it has finally surfaced in the form of a full blown epiphany. I'm sure I'm not alone in having gone to countless restaurants where the appetizers are good to great and the entrees are disappointing. Why is that? Is every appetizer cook great, and the entree cooks aren't? Doubtful. Often it's the same person anyway. Things finally came into focus when I was reading from the French Laundry Cookbook. In retrospect it should be no surprise that the inspiration came there. Keller talks about "the law of diminishing returns". He talks about the fact that when someone bites into something delicious for the first time they have an amazing experience. However, by the 4th or 5th bite they're already bored no matter how wonderful the initial impression was of the dish. (As two friends have told me when I told them about my thoughts on this topic, "this must be why we like sushi so much".) Keller talks about trying to replicate that first feeling often throughout the meal always leaving the customer wanting just one more bite. (He also says that he overdoes it only with caviar and truffles feeling that most customers don't get to experience those as often. I think that's cute!) I've often wondered half-jokingly why there aren't restaurants that only serve appetizers. Yes, I know about tapas, but that's still pretty narrow and most restaurants who serve tapas also serve entrees (at least here in the U.S.). Why am I only half-serious when I make the suggestion of an all-appetizer restaurant? I think up until now I've been a little uncomfortable with the idea because after all, you have to have an entree. Don't you? Without an entree would society start to crumble? The truth is that entrees are evil. They're a good appetizer violated. They're too big, too much, and I say that the current construct of dining in America is breaking under the weight of those overstuffed overly-emphasized entrees. I know there have been many people complaining for many years about the increasing emphasis on quantity in American food service. But that's broader than my focus. I believe the root of this sickness is the American belief that you haven't had a meal if you haven't eaten (or half-eaten) an entree. Once you can convince American diners that they don't need an entree the benefits are numerous. First and foremost is the emphasis on more first impressions of great food. These all appetizer meals do not need to be presented in the form of "tasting menus". They can just be chosen from a la carte. Or maybe they can even be offered in sets that the chef thinks would go well together. How many are right? Well if a standard meal is one appetizer and one entree, maybe a total of three or four would do the trick. I believe that bread should be served this way as well - not as an unlimited supply but as a prepared and thoughtful dish. (And while I'm at it, I can think of almost no reason on earth to ever not serve bread warm. Cold bread is lame. Warm is divine. The choice is easy.) An additional possible benefit of the "eliminate-the-entree" approach is that people may eat less food as they'll get smaller portions over a longer period of time and they'll have a chance to feel full before they eat as much as they normally would. This approach to eating is not so foreign outside of the United States. Many countries (France and Japan come to mind) already often eat much more similarly to this style. I imagine in this country of "super-sizes" some people would say that these ideas would be nice but Americans love quantity. I say there's something everyone can do. Restaurants: offer an appetizer-only menu. If you can't go all the way, then at least highlight some appetizer combinations that people could order instead of entrees. Customers: go to restaurants and order only appetizers. You may feel a bit odd but don't worry, free yourself from the tyranny of the entree and you'll never look back. Make your own tasting menu.  It's funny but when I came up with the name for this website I wanted a food related term for which the domain wasn't taken. The "tasting menu" theme came to encompass the small "bites" of food-related news and reviews that occupy the site. But now the name takes on additional meaning as I think we need to redefine how Americans think about eating to have an approach centered around more small bites than huge troughs.


Wednesday, January 1, 2003, 10:57PM

There was an episode of Iron Chef where the challenger dismissed the assistants, and then the Iron Chef had to dismiss his assistants. It was very exciting as they each prepared all the dishes completely solo. The New York Times (free registration required) has an article about chefs who go solo at their restaurants.

Peyman sent a link to Chowhound. Check out the section on "The Most Amazing Food Store in the World (Lodi, NJ)". I want to go there. I'm still trying to figure out how to get Israeli frozen kebabs here in the U.S. I think you have to pay for some of the content at this site.

After coming back from vacation I have a huge backlog of reviews, photos, books, and links. Expect them soon.










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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