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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.


Thursday, September 30, 2004, 9:12PM

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Whew. We're through all eight recipes of the cookbook. You'll have to pardon our indulgence at spending so much time on the site talking about it. We spent a ton of time on it (the last 12 months to be exact). Also, this cookbook was certainly an experiment but also a dream. How could we take the unique approach here on the website and apply it to the world of cookbooks. And of course we're not done. We're still working on a way to deliver a print version, and who knows... maybe even do a second one. In the meantime thanks very much to the thousands of people who downloaded the cookbook and sent us all the great feedback.

You should also know that the cookbook was really created by a great team of people. First and foremost is Chef Scott Carsberg. We could do all the writing, photography, editing, and design we want. Ultimately the point of the book is to give you an insight into how some world class, delicious, and inventive dishes are made. Chef Carsberg provided the actual content of the book that we were lucky to build around. Peyman took some of the best food photographs I've ever seen anywhere - on the web, in print, anywhere. Jenny did incredible design work really making sure the book embodied the values that were in the food and in how we love to enjoy food. Debbie didn't just edit the book - she made sure it made sense, was clear, enjoyable, and informative. Alex prepared for days to make the recipes to make sure that they actually worked when prepared by normal human beings. Dana of Lampreia provided key assistance in the kitchen on those many early Sunday mornings. DebDu also was there early videotaping and being photographer's assistant. Hyun Joo of Lampreia, along with Lauren, Leslie, and Chris provided moral support and advice (and a few photographs from Chris). All in all a true team effort.



Wednesday, September 29, 2004, 11:52PM

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Bolzano Apple Cake. Apple Cake. There are seemingly infinite ways to make an apple cake. But this isn’t just any apple cake. The cake is made of apples. I mean the dough (actually more of a batter) is really only there as connective tissue binding the apples together. This cake is like a wall of apple. Sweet apple bricks laid tightly one on top of the other. It comes to the table a sugary rectangle. The top of the cake has caramelized into a crumbly topping. It’s not only sweet but adds contrasting matte texture and yummy cake flavors to the stack of apples that make up the body. The body is super compressed. The texture of the cake is all spongy, buttery, fruity goodness. The sweet round flavor lasts and gently finishes the meal with delicious satisfaction.



Monday, September 27, 2004, 10:00PM

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Apple Soup with Cinnamon Cream. Apple juice? Apple sauce? How about something in between? A dollop of slightly cinnamoned cream in the middle makes it complete. The soup is velvety smooth and still has a heartiness about it. The liquid coats and calms your mouth, especially if you’ve just had the gorgonzola explosion. The color is a deeper version of the color of the walls at Lampreia—muted rose. You may have thought that the apples had already given everything they were capable of for this meal, but this dish comes along to remind you that there’s more flavor to be had. And more unique flavor at that.



Sunday, September 26, 2004, 4:53PM

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Gorgonzola d’Oro with Shaved Apples and Truffle Honey. This dish will slam your tongue. The meal has been progressing on a path where subtle and simple flavors build on each other, each dish getting more and more exciting. Just when you think you’ve reached the crescendo, you try this dish and are blown away. The obvious culprit would be the cheese, but it’s really the combination of ingredients that gets you. The truffle flavor is so incredibly complementary, rounding out the sharpness of the gorgonzola. Your tongue gets very busy processing the cheese, at the same time the truffle fills your mouth and nose with its smell. Don’t forget the honey though. The sweetness binds the flavors and mellows them a touch. The texture of the bread is crisp, light and essentially perfect. It’s not hard or brittle. Somehow it’s airy and crispy at the same time. The apple is subtle, sweet, soft, crispy but somehow not lost in the dish. The entire combination is like an exclamation point to the meal.



Thursday, September 23, 2004, 10:26PM

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Pork Prepared two ways with Apple Cider Sauce and Pippin Apple Dumplings. There are so many wonderful things about this dish, it’s hard to know where to start. The smell of the pork loin found my nose in a hurry. The tenderloin is unbelievably juicy. No surprise given that it’s been basting in butter. The cured meat adds perfect oil to this dish that drizzles over the dumplings as they’re served. Speaking of the dumplings, they have a doughy sour flavor dotted with perfect tiny pieces of copa. When served, they have a gentle coating of sweet and savory cider sauce. The pancetta has almost a pastrami-like flavor. It’s beautiful to behold, with the dumplings under the pancetta absorbing the oil and flavor and getting even more flavorful. They’re like mini apple-concentrated balls of slightly finely crumbled dough. The flavors in this dish are gentle, but strong and smooth. The smell of the pork engulfs you.



Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 11:45PM

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Response has been overwhelming to say the least since the cookbook has been available for everyone to download, and of course due to the mention in the New York Times (free registration required). Now we continue our tour of the recipes and our descriptions of how each dish should taste once it's made. Enjoy! (I promise once we're through the tour of the recipes we'll resume our regular programming with some reports on a recent eating trip to New York.)

Cooked & Raw Zumi Apple with Red Prawn & Virgin Olive Oil Dressing. Perfect essence of prawn. The aroma hits you as the steaming prawn is placed in front of you with its apple accompaniments. Screaming prawn flavor. The prawn seems almost undercooked but it’s not. It’s just the flavor that’s alive. The prawn is so juicy, tender, and structured. The drizzled olive oil is the base for the flavor. Super-thin shaved apples sit alongside the very best apple sauce you have ever tasted. Constructing a bite of the entire affair can be complicated when you’re trying to get a touch of everything onto your fork. But the result is so simple and sweet. The textures are all completely individual; crisp apple folded over on itself, tender stretchy prawn, and simple soft tiny granular apple puree texture. Why is this so special? It’s deceptively simple. The colors are beautiful and soft. The flavors are simple, bright, and delicious.



Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 11:01PM

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To print or not to print. That is the question. As a technology enthusiast (and professional) I am a big fan of progress, innovation, and the magic of software and computers. It's what has allowed this site to make a really cool cookbook and distribute it all over the world. That said, there is something about the physical world that just cannot be replaced by bytes. Especially when it comes to books. And especially when it comes to beautiful photo-rich cookbooks. And so, while we've had incredible responses to our first ever cookbook (even a mention in the New York Times - free registration required) we've also heard one message loud and clear. "We want a printed version."

While Lampreia is a first class restaurant, and Scott Carsberg is an incredible chef, tastingmenu is a small operation. We're not quite ready to offer printed versions of All About Apples. It will probably be some time until we get there. But in the meantime, we do recognize that everyone wants to get a taste of the cookbook. So in the spirit of giving everyone something to tide them over until we have a printed edition, effective immediately All About Apples is FREE to download. Tell your friends and family, feel free to forward around a link, download as many copies as you want. And enjoy. Tomorrow we'll continue our tour of the recipes.



Sunday, September 19, 2004, 8:25PM

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Red Cabbage Velouté with Apple Geleé. It’s a touch cold outside and the aroma of this concoction starts to fill your body with warmth. Thicker than a soup and smoother and lighter than a puree, it’s a velouté. A cabbage velouté. This soup is Autumn. Fireplace, leaves turning red, color. The apple geleé perched in the middle melted instantly, its unseen pyramid base of flavor softening under the surface of the velouté. The cabbage is smoky and hearty but smooth smooth smooth. The geleé that hasn’t yet melted ends up becoming tiny pockets of sweet and sour in your mouth. The chestnut puree is candy in the middle. Now my mouth is round. The chestnut puree gets on my spoon in dabs. I try to ration it so that it lasts evenly throughout the dish.



Wednesday, September 15, 2004, 11:59PM

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Buckeye Apple filled with Foie Gras served with Preserve Fig Vincotto as a condiment. How do you balance the luxury of foie gras with the simplicity of apples? Take a bite. Taste the buttery, creamy foie gras and the sweet crispness of the apple. The vinegar and pomegranate add contrast. Apples stuffed with foie gras—luxurious? Actually it comes off as simple, fresh, and down to earth. It’s beautiful to look at, the clean edges as if the apple grew on the tree with the foie gras already at its center. This heart of the dish is beautiful and generous. The fig vincotto is sticky, sweet, deep, and rich. It’s the foundation flavor for the dish.



Tuesday, September 14, 2004, 10:37 PM

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For the next few posts we're going to take a tour of the dishes featured in our new digital cookbook - All About Apples. Writing about food is like dancing about architecture. Words can't really describe how something tastes. But that didn't stop us from trying. Before each recipe we try to describe how the dish should end up.

Dungeness Crab wrapped in Red Delicious Apples. When you serve a meal with eight courses, first impressions count. When you’re done eating the first course, your mind should be racing with the possibilities of what might show up in the next seven dishes. Making a strong impression requires restraint on the part of the chef. Too large a quantity, or flavors that are too strong, could narrow your palate and make the rest of the meal drudgery. Lampreia’s Dungeness Crab wrapped in Red Delicious Apples strikes the perfect fragile balance. Think crab cannelloni. The flavor of the crab filling is soft and detailed and almost sweet. And in that context the paper-thin apple wrapper is almost salty. But after a moment the apple is slightly sour and a different kind of sweet than the crab. The apple wrapper is super thin and wrapped tight tight tight. The crab meat has flaked into small pieces and it ends up as a creamy center with the homemade mayo. It would be wrong to call the large pieces of crab on the side “garnishes”. They’re too generous for that. The slight amount of extra virgin olive oil drizzled across the dish gives a warm base flavor for all the other ingredients. The olive oil and the apple literally and figuratively wrap the crab in flavor. Tasting these subtle flavors is like going to the country and seeing stars you couldn’t see in the city with all the city streetlights competing for your eyes’ attention. Your mouth and your imagination are now attentive and alert. Your palate is clear and ready for what’s next.



Monday, September 13, 2004, 12:01 AM

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If you read this site regularly, you know that we love nothing better than enjoying a wonderful meal filled with special dishes, prepared by someone who is focused on doing their best, all the time, every time. Certainly that's the right way to describe every meal we've had at Lampreia, in Seattle - one of the best restaurants in the country. That's why we were so happy to show the chef, Scott Carsberg, some of the pictures we'd taken on a previous visit. We loved his food, and we wanted to show him how good the pictures came out. After looking at the photos he suggested we make a cookbook together.

We laughed. But we thought about it. We thought about it for awhile, until we figured out that maybe we really could make a cookbook together. But what would make a cookbook special? There are thousands of cookbooks on the market. How could we stand out? We started thinking about the problems with cookbooks today:

  • Not enough story. I don't just want the recipes. I want the story behind the recipes.

  • Not enough pictures. I don't buy cookbooks without color pictures - lots of them.

  • Not enough detail. Be specific. Don't gloss over key points. Show me every single step.

When we started applying the solutions to these problems - a biography of the chef, tons of beautiful photos, and incredible detail, we realized that we could really get it right if we focused on a small number of recipes at once - one tasting menu to be exact. Why not do a cookbook that was focused on one tasting menu, described and documented in exacting and beautiful detail. One set of dishes, meant to be eaten in sequence. And that's exactly what we did - 100 pages, 291 pictures, 8 recipes, 1 tasting menu, 1 chef. Think of this book as the "small plate" of cookbooks. Do a small number of things, and do them well. This cookbook embodies that philosophy. Make a small number of dishes, and make them well - very well.

Of course, there are other problems that we had to overcome - printing for one. We don't have a warehouse to store cookbooks, a distribution network, fulfillment agency, sales staff, etc. But we wanted to make the cookbook available to as many people as possible. The answer? The internet of course. We can afford to charge only $14.95 for the book as it's an electronic cookbook. Distributed in Adobe's Acrobat (.pdf) format. No warehouse, no inventory, no shipping. An internet connection and a PC is all you need. And there's even a free sample chapter that includes one of the recipes from the cookbook so you can get a taste of the book before you buy.

So after months of work, we're proud to offer our first cookbook. Scott Carsberg was the perfect partner. His apple-themed menu is beautiful to look at, educational to read, and delicious to eat. Trust us. We've eaten quite a bit. Just in time for the Apple Season from Washington State, it's All About Apples from Scott Carsberg of Lampreia and tastingmenu.publishing. Enjoy!



Saturday, September 11, 2004, 7:53 PM

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Hot on the heels of the New York Times I finally caved and decided to make reservations at Per Se. This is Thomas Keller's expensive new venture in New York. Meals can go to hundreds of dollars per person. There's not that many seats. And lunch is served only Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. With the entire city of New York trying to get in, the odds weren't good. Basically you have to call two months to the day in advance to get a reservation. We're thinking of heading to New York City for a few days, and it seems like we should finally check out Per Se. I called late in the day today knowing that it was likely too late to get a reservation for November 11th, but I figured I'd give it a trial run before tomorrow. After seven redials I actually got through. Not bad. I thought, maybe this would work out. Ninety minutes later they finally took me off hold. Of course 90 minutes later was 6:02PM eastern - two minutes after the Per Se reservations office closed for the day. Aaaargh! Of course, I did get to talk to someone. She was very nice but made it clear that the 11th was booked anyway, they were closed on the 12th, and they will fill up very fast for the 13th, 14th, 15th, and beyond. (I heard they might raise their prices to unclog the phone lines. But I don't know for sure if that's true.) It became really clear to me that I will probably never eat a meal at Per Se. The work to get in there is just too much. And that's true of it's Napa counterpart as well. My friend tried to get us in to French Laundry (for a second time) for months and couldn't do it. Their phone was busy - for months.

It makes me more certain what the theme for our next trip to New York should be - cheap, ethnic, holes-in-the-wall. I just want to eat good food. It doesn't have to be fancy, popular, expensive, or have four stars from the New York Times. It just has to be special and delicious. I believe I can find that combination in some unexpected places. Wish me luck.



Thursday, September 9, 2004, 11:58 PM

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I don't know what restaurant would want its vanity compared to that of a preening peacock. But I suppose when it comes with a four star review from the New York Times (free registration required) you'll take it. Thomas Keller's, Per Se, in New York City is that preening peacock. The money involved in that restaurant seems excessive by almost any measure. But I admit I am curious to go.

Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) is rapidly approaching. Apparently there's room for more than apples and honey (which I still love) at the table. Not to be outdone, the Boston Globe, had a kugel contest.

The New Yorker's food issue is out. We still haven't gotten ours.

We're starting to think about our thanksgiving menu. We've deep fried a turkey. We've done a Thompson's turkey. The only logical remaining choice is to make a Turducken. This year we complete the holy trinity of thanksgiving turkey preparation. We're also wondering if there's a way to stuff bacon into sausage and sausage into ham - Bacausham. (I guess this remains to be invented - quick register the domain.)



Tuesday, September 7, 2004, 12:04 AM

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Sauté Wednesday directs us to this detailed and depressing article on the depletion of the world's tuna supply. I suppose I shouldn't admit this, but I'm much more affected by the prospect of a drought of beautiful maguro sashimi, than I am by the prospect that the ocean's ecosystem is being irreversibly damaged.

I swear this is true. Sometimes when I'm trying to find some interesting food news I'll troll around Google's news service typing in various food related search terms. For some reason I decide I'm in the mood for a reality TV show about food. I loved The Restaurant, and I need a fix since that show appears to be gone forever. I suppose that the popularity of cooking shows and reality shows means that I'm not really prescient, but still I was shocked to find out that my googling has predictive powers. Gordon Ramsay - fantastic London chef - is set to launch "Cook Idol". A combination of a cooking show and American Idol (or Pop Idol as they call it in England). Cool!



Saturday, September 4, 2004, 4:13 PM

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The 101 Cookbooks website is always a source of great detailed recipe experiences. For me a mystery of food preparation has always been the art of canning. And sure enough, Heidi has a great posting (and always beautiful photo) on canning San Marzano tomatoes. Cool.

A la carte, another obsessively detailed recipe website has it's own page up on cooking with tomatoes. Some of the particularly appetizing recipes include: soufflé aux tomates et avocats, verre de tomates au muscat, tartare de tomates mozzarella, and tomates farcies.

Movie aside (people under twenty look here), I need to try making Fried Green Tomatoes at some point.











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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