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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. Click here to see where I'm coming from.

 

Sunday, May 25, 2003, 11:59 PM


Lauren forwarded this. It's pretty scary and frankly feels very close to home. The premise? Wine collectors are obsessive liars and sneaks.

In the meantime I'm considering getting a pre-fab wine cellar from Vintage Keeper to store my wine, as I think my bottles over in Alex' cellar are like the guest who wouldn't leave. I think the other bottles are giving them the "stinkeye".

 

Friday, May 23, 2003, 11:59 PM


Here's a cool thing that Leslie found - it's called Community Supported Agriculture. Basically you subscribe to a farmer on an annual basis getting whatever fresh veggies they have available every so often. It's like the Columbia Record Club for produce.

 

Sunday, May 18, 2003, 11:12 PM


Spazzo is located in Bellevue, WA. It's owned by the people who own the unremarkable Daniel's Broiler steakhouse around here. For an east side restaurant Spazzo used to be quite good. Their angle is  sort of a commercialized tapas restaurant. A couple of years ago when their menu included roughly 30-40 different appetizers they were a fun place to eat in a pinch. Unfortunately they bowed to some sort of American style of dining comfort and cut their selection to 20 or fewer items. There's still a few that are quite good though - keftas, "Electric" Goat Cheese with a yummy tomato item, shishkebab, Mediterranean spread sampler (with subpar hummus, decent tsatsiki and the like), and my all-time favorite - Gambas al Ajillo. It's prawns served in a delicious sauce with a simple but super complementary grilled bread (i.e. toast). I've tried recreating the sauce at home - white wine, garlic, lemon juice, a touch of tomato (paste?), olive oil/butter, salt, and pepper. Tasty on just about anything. If you stick to the tapas you can have a decent meal in Bellevue.

 

Saturday, May 17, 2003, 11:59 PM


Relatively new Indian place near work for Lunch - Sahib. YAIB - yet another Indian buffet. Uneventful. Not terrible. Not great.

Always on the lookout for great Vietnamese food, I stopped by Vietnam's Pearl for lunch in the "Little Saigon" section of Seattle's International District. It was already early afternoon so there weren't that many folks in the place which was surprisingly large relative to what I expected from the facade - it has a "banquet room". Also adding to the ambience was an oversized gumball machine. I don't care if they had a popcorn machine as long as the food rocks. Still it was funny. I ordered one dish too many so I could taste as many dishes as possible without being wasteful. I started with the classic Goi Cuon - Vietnamese fresh salad rolls with rice noodles, mint, shrimp, and pork wrapped in more rice noodle and dipped in peanut sauce. These were quite good, tightly rolled, and came with a sweet peanut sauce. When Goi Cuon are wrapped tightly and extremely fresh they can be positively great. These were excellent. Next up was Thit Nuong - grilled pork on a bed of lettuce. It was perfect alone but even better with sauce - Nuoc Cham to be specific. With a few slices of fresh onion this could have been a perfect salad. Then of course came my favorite Vietnamese dish - Pho Bo Vien - Vietnamese beef noodle soup with beef meatballs. The soup had a nice anise smell (surprising considering that I'm not an anise fan), a topping of fresh cut scallions, and a yummy and good oily quality - gave the soup presence and texture. With lime and chili sauce (Tuong ot an Pho Sriracha - D&D Gold brand which was a little less sweet than the typical brand I eat) the soup was quite good. There were only six meatballs, but they were big ones. Unfortunately I had no knife. Twelve half-size meatballs would have been better, but it's a minor nit. The meatballs also could have been a bit smoother in texture. All in all quite a good lunch. I will definitely go back and try again.

 

Friday, May 16, 2003, 11:59 PM


Inspired by the Blini with Smoked Salmon and Caviar we had at Lampreia, I thought I might make a quickie variation on my own at home. I found this recipe for blini on the web. I topped it with this amazing Caviar and Cream Cheese spread from Sabra Salads (I forget what it's called right now and their website is under construction. Who's website is still "under construction" in 2003???). Anyway I topped it with some lox and fresh chopped chives from the backyard and they were fantastic! As good as Lampreia's? No way. But very good in it's own right and super easy to make. That said, I had a hard time telling my blinis apart from the Swedish pancakes I know and love. Lampreia's were huge and light and airy. Mine were thin. Still yummy though.

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2003, 10:22 PM


As if wine wasn't enough of a distraction, there are other beverages that you could obsess about and really spend too much time collecting and consuming. While someone recently suggested beer to me (I don't see myself really getting into beer any time soon), the LA Times (free registration required) talks about another option - cider. I need to try some. If you want to find out more about cider, here's a good primer.

Boston icon Legal Sea Foods has its first new cookbook out in 15 years. The Boston Globe has an article about it here.

 

Sunday, May 11, 2003, 11:27 PM


17-kitchenwindowaction.jpgThere are several excellent restaurants in Seattle. Fewer than I'd like, but certainly enough to keep us happy. The best restaurant in Seattle is Lampreia, owned and operated by its chef - Scott Carsberg. Different people have different reactions to Chef Carsberg's style (I think he's great), but most everyone agrees - especially many other chefs in the area - his food is a step above (and beyond). With an intense focus on bringing out the unique and authentic flavor contribution of each ingredient, and with a deceptively simple philosophy that highlights those ingredients, Lampreia is an experience. As I've said before, the best way to experience Lampreia is to just put yourself in Chef Carsberg's hands. For some people with certain food issues/restrictions that may not be possible (though he's able to handle Lauren's vegetarian constraints without a problem). But for everyone else it's something you must do. Strangely enough, I don't think that Lampreia is considered the best restaurant  in Seattle by the general public. I think they are more focused on other restaurants with a more showy quality - some good, and some not so good. Since it became clear that Lampreia is the best Seattle has to offer, I've been meaning to take some pictures while there in their low-light warm atmosphere. This write-up includes pictures for those who like to look. You will be jealous when you read and see what we ate. :) First up for Lauren was two kinds of ricotta with sweet pepper gelatin and zucchini blossom. The zucchini was filled with ricotta. I'm not a gelatin fan typically, but the sweet pepper gelatin was unlike anything I've ever tasted. The texture was smooth and not rubbery and the flavor was laser-intense sweet red pepper. It tasted as if a hundred perfect red peppers had gone into my one rectangle of gelatin. Pure pepper essence. If you love caviar or smoked salmon the dish the rest of us got would blow you away as it did me - Blini with Smoked Salmon, Caviar, Zucchini Blossom with Potato. Salmon or caviar? Both! This was a macro experience. Next for Lauren were Braised Winter Greens and Mozarella with Quail Egg. According to her it was "delicious, flavorful, and tender". The egg? Perfectly soft boiled of course. For us the rectangular theme continued with Marlin with Tomato Confit, Olive Tapenade Fritter, and (now the meat eaters got the) Sweet Pepper Gelatin with Pepperoncini. Cold dishes can be hard to keep flavorful as heat brings out the flavor in ingredients. But this was cold and flavorful. Tiny tiny tiny minced peppers added texture and flavor. This was our little gelatinous slice of heaven. Next up was Green Asparagus Gelatin with Black Truffle Sauce. The flavor was excellent and I found myself mopping up truffles with my crusty bread. That said, I found the truffle texture in this dish a touch gritty for my taste. We paired our meal with a couple of wines. First was the 1991 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon. It was sharp given it's age, but smoother after it had a chance to breathe. The fun surprise of the night though was the 1999 John's Blend South Australia No. 5 Margarete's Shiraz. Alex and I got the last two cases from Garagiste. It had amazing weight, chocolate in the nose, tons of fruit balanced with big tannins, and the finish goes on and on. Next up was Braised Veal Cheek with Gelatin of Fig Vinegar. The texture was amazingly buttery though the flavor was a touch subtle for me. Lauren got one of Lampreia's signature items - a veloute. Hers was Celeriac Veloute with Truffle Oil. One word - wonderful! So simple, so delicious. Creamy and rich. Next up for us was the lamb chop with three crenelles on the side and a potato mint ravioli. The lamb crust was incredible as it had a decent amount of parmesan in it fusing with the flavor of the lamb. Two of the sides were olive tapenades, and one was an incredible carmelized onion concoction. Lauren got Corzetti Pasta with Soft Peccorino, Black Truffle, Fava Beans (one of her favorites) and Preserved Tomato. Absolutely delicious with contrasting textures: the beans vs. the cheese vs. the pasta. The pasta was incredibly delicate but not falling apart. With dinner winding down we headed to the cheese course: a blue cheese from the south of France, Mont D'or Triple Creme cow's milk cheese, Lincolnshire Cheddar, a Peccorino from Tuscany, and a sheep's milk Perail Double Creme. Mmmm. Dessert was next. We each got a different one, took a few bites and rotated. There was plenty of strategizing so people could maximize time spent with their favorites. Mine, as always, is another Lampreia signature dish - the Clafoutis. This time it was made with strawberries and blueberries. The fruit gets so bubbly sour and sweet steaming within the delicious flakey pastry. There was also a lemon tart with a delicious blueberry sauce (this was Alex' dad's favorite), a chocolate tart with delicious bittersweet chocolate, and a tapioca pudding with a caramel tuille. In a world full of delicious things it takes a lot for tapioca to stand out. This one did. And finally there was sponge cake with apricot white chocolate mousse, white chocolate shavings, and chocolate sauce. It was completed "veloute-style" at the table. This was essentially the best white chocolate any of us had ever had. Lauren (who hates all things white chocolate) said it was her favorite. Sweet and tasty petit fours followed. The meal was classic Lampreia and exceptional. Every dish we had was new to us except for the Lampreia classics - the veloute and clafoutis which believe me we were glad to have. Chef Carsberg gave us another great night and showed range. One of the best things about Lampreia is that - to be honest - this is pretty much a typical evening. You should be so lucky to have a "typical" evening at Lampreia.

 

Friday, May 9, 2003, 11:59 PM


OK. Bit the bullet. Added "Restaurants I Like" as a category on each review page. Here's the new explanations for the categorizations.

  • Restaurants I LOVE - Places I love are restaurants that I recommend without any doubt or qualifications. Something about these dining experiences makes for an emotional, authentic, and memorable experience. If you're just visiting a city, make sure to go to at least one of these.

  • Restaurants I like - This is a new category. The fact is that there are several excellent restaurants in each city who for one reason or another don't quite make it into the "LOVE" category. They are very close though. Not just any decent restaurant makes it in. Consider this category the list of restaurants you need to round out your regular rotation if you live in a city.

  • Restaurants I've been to - Just because a restaurant is only listed in "Restaurants I've Been to" doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad. Though it's also not likely something you want to go to since there are plenty of restaurants we either love or like, and you can always try something new. You really need read the notes on each restaurant here to understand where it falls in the spectrum. Many are decent. Some of course, are just bad and should be avoided.

  • Restaurants I want to try (or retry) - And finally, my t0-do list. In cities where I haven't been able to spend as much time, this may be a reasonable list to choose from, but no guarantees.

Thanks to Alex for prodding.

 

Thursday, May 8, 2003, 12:01 AM


Here's a couple of funny/odd links. Chris forwarded cooking tips from the Onion. Peyman forwarded something more disturbing - the Health Department's report on the cafeteria where we all work. Scary.

 

Wednesday, May 7, 2003, 12:32 AM


This brings up another issue. The rating system we use for restaurants on tastingmenu.com basically falls into 3 categories: either it moved me, or it didn't move me, or I haven't yet eaten there. Alex points out that the rating system is a little extreme. As if the New York times either had four stars or zero, or Michelin had three or nothing. (Not saying our judgment should be compared with the Times or Michelin.) Case in point, what do you do with a restaurant like Hing Loon. In my opinion it competes quite effectively with Shanghai Garden for the title of the Best Chinese food in Seattle. Note: Seattle doesn't have world class Chinese Food. Period. That said, Hing Loon is very very good. How come they get lumped in there with a restaurant like Vivanda which was terrible? Alex makes the case that the "Restaurants I LOVE" category is for when you're in town for one night only and need to know where to go. That said, if you live in the town, choosing between the eight restaurants in that upper echelon is not realistic in terms of having a diverse set of places to eat. My argument is that ultimately I'd like to only go to places that I love, or places I haven't been in search of new great experiences. The truth however is that a city the size of Seattle may not have a Thai, Italian, or Chinese place that qualifies for that top tier (although Hing Loon came damn close today - their French Pepper Chicken was PERFECT). Even San Francisco I don't think has sushi that qualifies as a "Restaurant I LOVE". What to do for Thai in Seattle or Sushi in San Francisco? I'm leaning towards following Alex' advice here. If we did it, there would be a new category called "Restaurants I like". The pithy category name aside, this would be reserved for restaurants that I really enjoy, appreciate, and enjoy eating at, but who just can't be counted on to move me. Stay tuned. Send feedback if you have an opinion.

 

Tuesday, May 6, 2003, 11:27 PM


Masaharu Morimoto (his website appears to be down for some reason) - Iron Chef Japanese III - was in Seattle today doing a cooking demonstration and book signing at Uwajimaya - the excellent Asian grocery in town. Alex and I played hooky for the last couple of hours of work (which is when most people in normal jobs aren't working anyway) and headed down there to see what was up. When we went to his restaurant in Philadelphia he was in the northwest hunting for ingredients so we missed him. We've already met Sakai and Kobe as well as been to almost all the Iron Chef Restaurants so it seemed cool to meet Morimoto as well. All in all the experience was a bit of a disappointment - though I'm not sure I should have expected better. First there were a couple of hundred people mobbing the area where he was cooking. It was a zoo. Second, the "cooking demo" was really Morimoto mixing various meats with his new Morimoto Iron Chef line of sauces. I can't find a link to them yet. Essentially here's meat A with Sauce X. Then, here's meat B with Sauce Y. You get the idea. Not quite the major cooking demo. Alex and I got bored after awhile and figured that seeing meat item #7 mixed with sauce #7 was not super interesting, not to mention the fact that who knows how long we'd have to wait to get my book signed. I'm all for a chef branching out and trying to build a business, but how many of these celebrity chef sauces can the world take? So we took off to Hing Loon for a lovely early evening snack.

 

Monday, May 5, 2003, 11:59 PM


Good stuff on Kip's FoodBlog. Two Japanese salmon recipes with good pictures (I think he took them but I'm not sure). One recipe for Salmon Tempura, and one for Salmon with Nori. Yum.

 

Friday, May 2, 2003, 10:57 PM


Slate has a nice write-up of the language used on menus in restaurants these days. I like how the author deconstructs all the code menu writers use.

I found this link of the Slate article - it's all about El Bulli in Roses on the Costa Brava in Spain and their 30 course dinner. Going here is going to require some planning. This is the ultimate tasting menu. I would have to train to make it for the entire 5 and a half hours.

Speaking of menus, the New York Public Library has a collection of them. This link also courtesy of Slate.


 
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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