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Saturday
September

11

2004
7:53 PM



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Per Se, New York, NY, September 11, 2004 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.

 


 

     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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