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.
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,
Chris provided moral support and
advice (and a few photographs from Chris). All in all a true team
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
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.
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.
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.
Response has been overwhelming to say the least since the
been available for everyone to download, and of course due to the
mention in the
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
(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
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
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
room for more than apples and honey (which I still love) at the
table. Not to be outdone, the Boston Globe, had a
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
fried a turkey. We've done a
The only logical remaining choice is to make a
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
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
Idol". A combination of a cooking show and American Idol (or Pop
Idol as they call it in England). Cool!
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
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
Fried Green Tomatoes at some point.