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Wednesday
January

26

2005
12:34 AM




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Trattoria Mario, Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — Since 1953 this boisterous trattoria has been serving great food at family style tables in the heart of Florence. I honestly can't remember if some research pointed us here, or if it was serendipity. But either way, I'm glad we went. After our trip to the market for pre-lunch and market perusal, we worked up an appetite checking out all the churches and Medici hangouts. We squeezed our way into a table at Trattoria Mario and recognized one of the waitresses as having been working at one of the stalls in the market. It turns out she was the daughter of the owner and was working in the market to learn about oils and vinegars. This family restaurant sent their daughter next door to work in the market to broaden her culinary perspective. And she returns to work at the family restaurant during the busy lunch hour. It seemed clear at this point, we'd come to the right place for lunch. When she later worried about whether we'd ordered enough food, we weren't just in the right place for lunch, we were in heaven.

Given that it seemed to be a pattern for the region, we didn't hold it against them when the awful bread showed up. As we expected it was completely devoid of flavor. No salt. Just terrible. Luckily the bread was quickly forgotten as we devoured our ragu. It was super beefy with an almost cinnamon flavor. Hearty and juicy. Good stuff. The "worm" pasta was fresh and slightly salty in a good way. A nice contrast to the ragu. The bean puree was super smooth. The savory beans were not heavy and were served with enough olive oil so they didn't come out mealy.

Florence is famous for a certain type of grilled steak served with a lemon. The steak is seasoned beautifully as well. Trattoria Mario's Bisteca Fiorentina was no exception. It was an amazingly juicy perfectly seasoned steak. It was cooked rare with white, tan, and pink spots all dripping with juice. The lemon made it perfect. The bitter greens in the salad were good as a complement.

Next up was the Piposo di Mauzo - beef brisket with an amazing sauce consisting of red wine tomato, olive oil, and black pepper. It was ruby red and warm in my stomach. The Fagioli Bianchi however was just ok. Peyman disagreed and thought it was very good. The potato dish was interesting - Patate in Umido - potatoes in a red oil sauce. The sauce was great. It started fresh and bright and got more complex and savory on the finish. The fries were soft but not limp. They were fresh tasting and perfectly salted. We also had the classic Osso Bucco. It tasted of red wine and cinnamon. Really good flavor.

We wrapped up with biscotti and vin santo for dipping. I'm not typically a biscotti fan as they usually come close to breaking my teeth. But this had a super almond flavor packed into a balanced crunchy/chewy cookie. Yummy.

In Florence, Trattoria Mario is wonderful. Outside of Italy it would be mind-blowing. Either way it's a definite stop for lunch (if you happen to be in Florence). Even if you've never been there, the combination of the food and atmosphere make you feel like you're home.

 

Monday
January

24

2005
12:32 AM




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Contests, January 23, 2005 — Well we didn't win any awards at the food blog awards held over at Accidental Hedonist, but of course it's an honor just to be nominated. As it was for the James Beard award last year (which we also lost). Is there an emoticon for trying to sound humble and poke fun at yourself while looking for pity? No? Oh well. :)

We did get another nomination when our cookbook - All About Apples - got nominated in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for Best Photography in a Cookbook in English in the United States. We're among 19 world-wide finalists in the Best Photography category, and on February 11, 2005 they will announce the world-wide winners in Sweden in front of Sweden's King himself. (If anyone's planning on going, please let us know in case we win so you can accept our award. We couldn't fit a trip to Sweden into our schedules this year.) It should also be noted the credit for this award goes to Peyman who did all the kickass photography in the cookbook. Additional credit should go to Jenny who did the great layout that showed off the photos so beautifully, as well of course to Scott Carsberg of Lampreia who's food starred in all the pictures.

Finally on the contest front, we found out today that we were nominated for Best Food Blog in the 2005 Bloggies. So, if you'd like to see us win one of these, then vote for us please. :) However, if we lose, we'll take our sadness and focus it inward until it turns into some insecure need to prove that we can win one of these contests one day. That in turn will result in us working even harder to make this site great. So, probably best to vote for one of the other nominees - Simply Recipes, The Food Section, 101 Cookbooks, and Cooking for Engineers - they're very good. :)

OK. Enough self-promotion. Next post, we return to Italy.

Friday
January

21

2005
12:13 AM




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Mercato Centrale (Central Market), Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — After we smoked some cigarettes to properly conclude our sandwich eating experience at Nerbone, we got a chance to examine our surroundings. As it turns out, we were so busy eating our boiled beef sandwiches that we hadn't properly appreciated how cool the overall central market was in Florence. We didn't even notice there was a second floor. Oils and vinegars, cheeses and meats, fresh and dry produce, the stalls were endless, and beautiful. And many contained my favorite item of all - free samples. I could imagine living here and coming every morning to do my shopping. We got tons of pictures so you can get a sense of the place.

 

Thursday
January

20

2005
12:58 AM




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Nerbone, Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — Buried amid the seemingly endless stalls in the central market in Florence is a place everyone wishes was within a block from where they work. Because if you could eat lunch there every day, you would. It's Florence's answer to Katz' deli, and it's delicious. It's the panino con bollito that's bagnato served at Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale in Firenze.

Panino con bollito is a boiled beef sandwich that's bagnato - dipped in the beef's own juices just before serving. And it's delicious. The market has so many attractive stalls from produce to dried fruit to vinegars and oils and incredible butchers, that it would be easy to miss Nerbone. It's on the first floor and off to one side of the market. But luckily we knew not to rest until we found it. We could see the rest of the market after we got our sandwiches.

The stall is crowded. No surprise. Nobody knew we essentially flew half way around the world to eat this sandwich. And even if they did I'm not sure they would have let us through more easily. We had to buy a ticket paying for our sandwich and then fight our way to the counter to place an order. After the order was placed we sat back and wondered what a boiled beef sandwich dipped in it's own juices would taste like.

The bun was thick and hearty, a little baguette-like with flour on its surface. The beef was sliced coarsely to a medium thickness. It was placed on the big baguette. They didn't cover it until they topped the beef with a couple of dollops of a red and green sauce respectively. And just before the sandwich was completed the entire bottom was dipped in the juice from the boiled beef.

I was definitely worried that the sandwich would end up soggy. It wasn't. Not only wasn't it soggy but the entire thing defied expectations. The sandwich is extremely warm and filling, and just as you're enjoying this Florentine comfort food your tongue happens on some of the sauces and your mouth is filled with sparks. The red sauce is sharp and hot with the green (mashed garlic, basil, and onio) is unbelievably bright. The sandwich ends up being a warm, hearty, comforting, exciting, kickass bite of perfection. Yum, yum, and yum.

 

Monday
January

17

2005
12:02 AM




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Hot Chocolate Tasting - Round I, tasted on January 15, 2005 — The last three weeks have been among the coldest I have ever seen in Seattle. The east coast was warm and we were sitting here freezing our asses off. I'm not a big coffee drinker so one of the only hot drinks that's an option for me is hot chocolate. Needless to say when my friends came up with the idea of a hot chocolate tasting, I immediately signed up. (Both Alex and DebDu made the suggestion, but I think credit should ultimately go to DebDu since she actually made it happen.) I was pretty excited to say the least.

A few days before the event DebDu told us the rules:

  • Our goal is to find the best hot chocolate – that means tasting both mixes and cocoas. It means not making any cakes.
  • We’ll use the recipe on the package for each.
  • Where the type of milk is not specified (it’s usually not) or where the recipe specifies either water or milk, I will use 2% milk. Why 2% milk? That’s what we typically have in the house & I want to the hot cocoa we select to taste GREAT as an everyday cocoa.
  • I’ll have some palate cleansers – banana bread & angel food cake [and Sophie's doughnuts].
  • I will have fresh marshmallows.

As it turns out, it's hard to try ten different hot chocolates. That said, our palates didn't get too tired as our favorite came near the end and it was very easy to recognize. The palate cleansers helped too. There wasn't a spit bucket though it was required for only the worst one of all - the Washington Huskies Dawg Gone Good Gourmet Cocoa. Horrible and completely without any redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Before we get into what happened, I should say that we came to some conclusions in our quest for perfect hot cocoa. First, there were many more cocoas we wanted to try (including and especially Jacques Torres). So we need to do another round of tasting. Second, a lot of the variables we judged: texture, sweet/bitter balance, flavor, etc. were partly a function of the recipe. With an adjusted recipe (other than what they recommended) some cocoas might have fared better.

Finally, it's important to note that there was some disagreement when the categories were unveiled. Back when we did PizzaGanza in March of 2003, there was a category called "Foldability". This caused significant uproar as nobody really knew what it meant and some people decided to use that column to game the system. In the end we had to make sure that the winner won with and without that column counted. And sure enough they did. And as if we were transported back to the center of that controversy, there was "Dipability" staring at us from the scorecard. Again, nobody knew what it meant so we had to calculate the results with and without that column. We also at the last second revised "Richness of Flavor" to be "Quality of Flavor" so that everyone was in agreement. Our eventual ratings were on:

  • Aroma
  • Texture and Consistency
  • Sweet Bitter Balance
  • Quality of Flavor
  • Dipability™
  • Finish

All cocoas were tasted and rated blind (though the Hersey's shaped container was kind of hard not to recognize - though DebDu pointed out that we didn't know whether cocoas were in their original containers) with the packages only revealed after all ratings were handed off to our accounting firm for tabulation.

And interestingly enough it was kind of an odd contest. A lot of the hot cocoas were just mediocre. Some were interesting as was the Dilettante Ephemere which had a flowery aroma and tasted a little like almonds to me. And while nothing really blew us away, two cocoas really stood out above the rest: Scharffen Berger, and the eventual dark horse winner - McNess. I had more of a disparity in my scores between the two, but the group overall felt it was pretty close (one point to be exact). The McNess was the only cocoa I had that had an absolute firm base of chocolate flavor - essential in any hot chocolate in my opinion. The Scharffen Berger wasn't too bad in this category either.

Here are the scores:

 

Brand

w/o Dipability

w/Dipability

Dilettante Ephemere

85.5

97.5

Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa

87

99

Hershey's European Style Dutch Process Cocoa

78

92

Hershey's Cocoa

77

91

Lake Champlain Trad. Hot Chocolate w/ Dutch Cocoa

64

75

McNess Hot Cocoa (WINNER)

102

117

Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder

101

116

Schokinag Triple Chocolate

46

58

Washington Huskies Dawg Gone Good Gourmet Cocoa

30

36

WonderSlim Fat Free WonderCocoa

49

61

 

Get all the data from the hot cocoa tasting.

In the end, not only did we have fun, but we discovered this retro (packaged) and tasty hot cocoa - McNess. In addition, many felt vindicated that Scharffen Berger did well after Cook's lllustrated panned it in their Hot Cocoa-Off. As I mentioned before, we will need to do a second round including some brands we missed, and then eventually hold the Hot Cocoa World Championship where we take our favorite brands and apply them to our favorite recipes. My quest of course will be to replicate the best cup of hot chocolate I've ever had. Wish me luck.

 

Friday
January

14

2005
12:14 AM




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La Pergola, Rome, Italy, tasted on March 19, 2004 — Wandering around Rome all day eating made us hungry... of course. We knew when we planned our trip to Italy that we wanted to get a healthy mix of tiny spots, markets, homey restaurants, and high end places. Essentially good food of all kinds. So we asked friends and strangers, did our research, and got recommendations for where to eat on our trip. One of the recommendations we got was to go visit La Pergola in Rome. And visit we did.

Somehow I screwed up and forgot to confirm the reservation, but they took us anyway which was really nice as they were pretty packed that night. Luckily we showed up early. Since they had to get us off the table a little early to make room for someone else, they offered to let us eat dessert in their lounge area... again, very flexible and nice of them to do. Unfortunately you won't see any pictures of the food we ate as they were slightly less flexible when it came to us taking pictures. That was slightly annoying, but in the end we were hungry and had come on a strong recommendation. The chef, Heinz Beck, we were told, was something special, and many people consider La Pergola the best restaurant in Rome.

Since they wouldn't let me take any pictures, I grabbed this one off their website so you could at least see the room.

This is La Pergola

Situated at the top of the Hilton hotel, the room was gorgeous. It reminded us of La Rochelle, Hiroyuki Sakai's restaurant in Tokyo. The room was filled with a rich, warm, wood. The light shone through crystals, and it wasn't too dark. On our table were some gorgeous tulips stood up in beautiful small glass "stones". The atmosphere was comfortable and we were excited for some good food.

They started us off with some snacks including long super thin bread sticks. They had a weird absence of flavor. Almost a flavor vacuum sucking anything your mouth tasted like until they left a barren landscape for the food to inhabit. I'm a fan of cleaning your palate, but I'll admit this wasn't super enjoyable. This was quickly followed by some pleasant rolls. I had sesame and wheat. The little baguette however was absolutely delicious. Especially when combined with the olive oil they gave us - Felsina Berardegna's Leccino ("leccino" is the varietal). I am a fan of middle eastern olive oils as they often have a deeper and more rustic flavor and texture. The best Italian olive oils I've tasted have been lighter, more subtle, and typically more appropriate for finishing dishes. But this oil had a richer flavor and a nice thickness on the tongue. It was delicious and especially good with the the mini-baguette which was crusty, soft on the inside, and had an enjoyable slight saltiness.

First up, was a plate with several mushroom variations. The first was a mushroom ice cream. It had a super focused frozen mushroom yumminess. It's so funny how the way we think about food affects how we taste it. Some people might freak out at mushroom ice cream. But maybe a frozen mushroom mousse? It was almost milky and nicely savory. Next up was a mushroom tart in melted cheese. It was warm and delicious. savory, crispy, juicy and cheesey. Super smooth. There was also mushroom on toast with balsamic which was fine, and the mushroom geleé was just ok. Finally they gave us a pork (or veal) medallion on a mushroom dice which was good but not special. Of the selection, the pastry and ice cream were truly memorable.

Next up was Veal Tail "La Pergola". It was covered in some of the best, freshest, chunky tomato sauce I've tasted. It was so light and surrounded by crumbly butter drenched croutons around the edge of the plate. The Emincé of Lobster with Orange Sauce and Basil was interesting as well. The lobster was pounded flat. It was soft and sweet in a surprisingly tart (in a good way) orange sauce. There were also deep fried zucchini flowers for crunch. This dish was quite good.

The next appetizer was Variation of Fish. Five different plates of seafood with a large variety. Everything was soft and subtle and perfectly cooked. Really super subtle but definitely not without flavor. The Terrine of Rabbit and Duck Liver had some truffle and was good but not special. But this was followed by Squid Ravioli with Pineapple. I'm not a big squid guy, but I had to dig in of course, and I was glad I did. Having squid as pasta was very cool especially as it was filled with a warm pineapple soup. The squid was not rubbery but rather chewy in a good way. Really the best squid I've ever had.

We moved on to first courses starting with Ricotta Tortellini with Pecorino and Broad Beans. These were cheesey perfect little noodle jewels mixed with bright green broad beans. We also had the Sweet Pepper Consommé. The soup had a perfect essence - light and concentrated at the same time. It was slightly tangy and perfectly clear. I could eat it every day. Next was Tagliolini with Scampi, Lime, and (yes again) Zucchini Flowers. (I guess they don't expect people to order basically every dish on the menu.) The dish had a slight tanginess and a savory gorgeously cooked pasta. We also had the Saffron Mousse Risotto with Scampi. It was strong and interesting though the shrimp got a little bit lost. And in a final dish, the zuchhini flower caviar was smooth and good but not very interesting. The serving of caviar was generous though.

While we had essentially come in off the street (as we had forgotten to confirm our reservation) they put on the same show for us I assume they put on for everyone. The service was a huge albeit professional spectacle. Our plates came straight from plate warmers - heaven forbid they should be room temperature when they arrived in front of us.

We weren't done yet as we had two rounds of main courses still coming our way. The Filet of Veal Poached in Vanilla Sauce with Topinambur Purée was interesting and sweet. (A topinambur is a jerusalem artichoke - thank you google.) Our baked lobster showed up with a tiny amount of actual meat. Given that this dish alone cost 80 euros this seemed pretty nutty. Eventually they came to us and told us there had been an accident and they had lost part of the lobster between the kitchen and the table. Freaky! Peyman was convinced that our first lobster tried to jump back in the ocean when he saw a window of opportunity.

In the meantime the Variation of Lamb was fantastic. We had it three ways including and confit and two rare variations. Those last two were amazing with savory juicy goodness and dripping with flavor. We also got a Whole Duck in Mustard Sauce. The duck skin had concentrated seasonings which exploded in my mouth and the braised lettuce it sat on was fantastic and crunchy. The mustard seed was great as well - Alex likened to caviar for meat. Our whole lobster finally arrived and it was good and tender with a soft lemony flavor on the surface of the meat. Though that flavor didn't last long on the tongue.

All during our meal there was a Mozart piano concerto playing on a loop. It was driving Peyman crazy. I can't say that helped his outlook on the meal, though it didn't bother the rest of us.

For our second wave of main courses we ate variations and extensions of the first round. The duck leg they gave us had an almost chocolatey flavor. They also served s the lobster claw from that poor second lobster. It had a foie gras surprise inside and also had a truffle of green cauliflower. Though interesting, the first editions of these ingredients seemed better to us. The second wave of duck was chewier than the first, and the second wave of lobster had less flavor than the first.

We retired for dessert in the foyer on some comfy seats. Alex felt that their wine choices throughout the evening had been on target. As for dessert the Ricotta Souffle was interesting but the Ricotta Flan was very good. There were also tons of chocolates, fried eggplant chips, and some sorbet that was pretty ice creamy. We also had 12 different variations of petit fours. Debbie loved the "golden tea" they served her. She thought it might be the best cup of tea she'd ever had. We were stuffed!

I can't say that La Pergola was a slam dunk. It was kind of a push and pull evening. They were gracious about us not having confirmed our reservation, but they were kind of pissed about us wanting to take pictures (yes I realize that 99.99% of customers don't want to do that). They would serve us a perfect red pepper consommé, and then a risotto that was not balanced. (Risotto and consommé are two dishes that are benchmarks - hard to make, but easy to spot perfection). The head waiter told us he was writing a book on service, but we didn't always feel comfortable. Though I did take note that someone brought a baby to eat there. I thought that was cool.

Ultimately, there is obvious talent at La Pergola. Real deep talent. And yet it showed inconsistently on the evening we were there. I would try it again though ostensibly to see if our visit was a fluke. That said, I'd be happy to go back and just have a big bowl of that perfect red pepper consommé. I can taste it now.

 

Wednesday
January

12

2005
12:30 AM




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Burnt Bakery, Rome, Italy, tasted on March 19, 2004 — The Jewish community in Italy today is small, around 35,000. Unlike in the United States, many small Jewish communities around the world have maintained their separateness and identity. The word "ghetto" originated to describe the sections of the city where Jews were forced to live. And here in the Jewish ghetto in Rome is Antico Forno del Ghetto - also known as the Burnt Bakery.

The burning refers to the "overdone" quality of all the baked goods. Essentially the cakes, cookies, and breads are all "burnt" to caramelize the sugars. This adds a rich depth to the flavor of all the baked goods. Everything was yummy. And despite the burnt appearance, the ricotta based cheesecake was sweet, light, and airy.

 

Monday
January

10

2005
12:21 AM




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Roscioli Restaurant, Rome, Italy, tasted on March 19, 2004 — We were heading out of the market on our way to our next adventure, and we walked by this little restaurant/deli - Roscioli Restaurant. We were still a little peckish and had to stop in and get a snack. The weren't ready to seat us, but our misfortune turned to luck when we discovered that our only real option for a snack on the go was some smoked buffalo mozzarella.

Honestly, it looked kind of yucky, but the flavor was simply wow! It had a huge smokey flavor that was somehow reminiscent of some of the qualities of bacon, but more raw. The buffalo milk based cheese was tender with an almost jellied texture. You would take a bite and it would leave little strings around the edges of the bite. We also tried the "plain" mozzarella for contrast. It was delicious, simple, clean, with a light flavor. Smoked mozzarella - I'm sure everyone else has had it a thousand times - but for us this was a first, and very exciting.

(Funny postscript on this entry. I forgot to write down where the hell we were when we ate this cheese. But through careful analysis of the characters on the underside of the paper in the photo, and some persistent googling, I found this site and this site that confirmed the location. I love technology!)

 

Wednesday
January

6

2005
12:43 AM




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Forno Campo De Fiori, Rome, Italy, tasted on  March 19, 2004 — After a long break, we're finally back in gear describing our whirlwind trip to Italy. In Rome's Campo de Fiori market is Forno Campo de Fiori - a bakery/pizza shop. When you're done browsing the produce and the Ronco-style vegetable slicers, this little corner shop is a wonderful place to stop and snack. Through one door you can try and slither your way through the throngs of customers clamoring from some baked item. To the right is another door through which you can watch the bakers make all the fresh baked goods.

We were really there for the pizza, so we indulged. And frankly, the pizza was damn good. The mozzarella was so pure and distinct in flavor. The tomato sauce was slightly pulpy in a good way and in terms of flavor had a savory tomato perfection. Could pizza be simpler than simple? If so, this was. The flavors were super fresh. There were a few variations including one with herbs and lots of air pockets. This was my personal favorite.

After we finished our first round, Peyman and Alex peered through the side door to the bakery area and were treated to one hot plain pizza - just bread and oil. I will admit that when you got it hot, it was pretty much unbeatable. It made a big difference. Though I find that it's impossible to beat most baked goods when they are fresh out of the oven. DebDu, Peyman, and Alex were absolutely in love with the pizza here. Debbie and I thought it was great, though not to the degree that everyone else did. Either way it's definitely a great place to stop and enjoy yourself.

 

Tuesday
January

4

2005
12:19 AM




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Books About Food — With all this talk about food books (good and bad) I realized that it's time for me to admit my addiction. My addiction to food books. Cookbooks, books about wine, books about eating, it's all good. I have been bingeing a little bit lately. Here's a list of the food books I've gotten in the last month:

And a gift from Debbie:

I've updated the book section of this site though. It's a little easier to read, and the goal is for it to be a reflection of all the food books in my library.

I'm overwhelmed. And all my free time is being spent experimenting with different chicken soups before my parents arrive in town. I am on a mission to recreate my grandmother's chicken soup, and I will prevail.

 

Monday
January

3

2005
12:00 AM




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I've been feeling bad that posts have been few and far between for the last couple of weeks but I know most people are off enjoying their holidays. And while we've done some enjoying, we've also taken this short break to put together some big plans for the coming year. Lots of exciting things are coming this year on tastingmenu.com and we're raring to go.

So imagine my surprise when I saw that there were 26 comments on my write-up of my reactions to the book Super Chef. I was even more surprised to see that they were written by one person. One very pissed off person. Nothing like a huge flame to start the year off right.

Basically this person thinks I'm lazy, uninformed, and unqualified. And while on different occasions I have certainly been one or more of the above, It wasn't the case when I read or wrote about Super Chef. I read the book, and I have an opinion that I'd like to share. Isn't that enough? It's fine for my critic to say that they don't like my opinion, or that she doesn't think my opinion is well-founded. But there were a couple of things they said that bugged me:

  1. This person said that I'm "abusing the Internet and all your readers with reviews like this." Abusing the internet? The beauty of the internet is that anyone can express themselves. And some of those expressions will be ones you agree with, and some won't be. To say that it's abuse to express yourself, is kind of wacky. This is the same type of attitude that has kept the right to express oneself locked up for the privileged few - newspapers, magazines, record companies, etc. Many of  the people who are part of the privileged few are pissed off that the rest of us get to express ourselves. My critic sounds like one of them. This person then thinks they've "hoisted me on my own petard" as it were when they quote from my site where I say I have no qualifications. That's the point. I don't need any. Welcome to the internet. I'm not abusing it. I'm showing what's great about it.

  2. The other thing that bothered me was how the critic said that I should ask people in the food industry what they thought of the book as that "would be a real service". I imagine it might be interesting to know what they thought, but I'm not "in the industry" and I suspect that most of the people who read this site are not "in the industry". It's called opinion. Some people have more experience in the subject matter, some people have less. Either way, opinions are valid. Believe me, if I'd gushed about the book, calling it "a seminal work" like my critic did (this seems a little bit over the top to me even if you loved the book), they wouldn't be complaining that I was uninformed or unqualified. I would imagine that as long as my unqualified opinions were positive, they would be valid.

And then in the end the writer admits that they are friends with the author and commands me to re-read the book, re-review the book, and begin my new review with an apology and a recommendation that everyone who reads this site read the book, as well as an apology to the author. Oh yeah, and my critic says that if I don't repost their entire screed then I'm gutless. I may often be gutless but that's not the reason I'm not reposting it. The reason for not reposting is that I'm lazy. Lazy is different than gutless. Cutting and pasting your endless review of my review and then reformatting it so it's readable is simply too much work and I have lots of food to write about. I did start down that path but it got too time consuming. So, since you're all hot on apologies I figured I would write one myself and hope that this makes you happy.

To foodiereader@earthlink.net:

I'm sorry that you didn't like my review. I'm sorry that your seemingly endless self-righteousness caused you to write a response longer than the original review of the book. I'm sorry that you feel my comment service sucks. And finally, I'm sorry that I just don't agree with your characterization of what I wrote. But that's ok. I don't want you to re-read my review, post a retraction, apologize, or even admit who you are (instead of posting your anonymous criticism - which btw is really annoying as it makes it tough when I need to use pronouns). It's your opinion. I'm sure some people agree with it, and some people don't. And the beauty of the internet is that even someone like you gets to post their opinion.

--h

P.S. I wondered if I was alone in that I wasn't a fan of the book. And I found Publishers Weekly's comments on the book. Here are some choice quotes that echo my sentiments:

  • "This plodding group biography..."

  •  "...begins unevenly by failing to define in her introduction what a "super chef" is"

  • "A glossary with definitions of terms like "Fast Food Restaurant" and "Hoisin Sauce" provides a puzzling finish."

  • "Rossant's style is often awkward ( "It was the height of disco, and a few months after his divorce Wolfgang met Barbara Lazaroff at a discotheque")."

  • "...she glosses over unpleasant events"

  • "...never appearing to pass negative judgment."

I noticed you posted your critique of their review as well on Amazon.com (though there you didn't admit you're friends with the author). You asked me if I "work for a living". Yes I do. It appears that your full-time job is writing self-righteous critiques of anyone who comments negatively on your friend's book. If it pays well, I might be interested in myself as I have friends who write books as well.

And finally, I will admit that when I re-read my review before I posted it, it sounded a lot more negative than I felt when I started writing it. And I felt bad. Bad for the author who probably worked hard only to have me say I didn't like it. But then again, I realized that once I'd taken the time to write down what I thought it was really how I felt. So should I lie because I might hurt someone's feelings? Should I lie and tell people who read this site that I liked it? What will they think of me when they read it and have a similar reaction to mine? And while I know the author's friend is trying to defend her, I think the author needs better friends. Friends who aren't so defensive. Friends who understand that the appropriate response to my critique is, "I'm sorry you didn't like the book, I've found that a lot of people do, thanks for your time." This would have been better I think.

Whew! I can't tell if this flame I got was the capper to a fiery 2004, or the beginning to a fiery 2005. Either way, Happy New Year. On to better things.

 

 

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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  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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