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Thursday
September

8

2005
12:08 AM



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Vacation is Officially Over, September 8, 2005  Shockingly, some of you might not have noticed that tastingmenu remained unupdated for the month of August and well past Labor day. And the truth is that I'm not sure my malaise has retreated. I do know that I am determined to try and do something interesting and significant when it comes to expressing opinions about food.

In some ways, not much has changed. I still love to eat. I still love to go out to eat. I still love to share information about great places to eat with friends (and strangers). And yet, I still wonder if there's a way to have an impact beyond this site's barely perceptible micron-sized dimple of a footprint on the way people eat. Maybe it's too much to ask to be able to improve the quality of dining and diners in America through a blog. But that doesn't mean I won't try.

One thing I have done on vacation is read a lot of other people's websites. Mostly non-food-related. And one thing I've found is that the best of them share one key trait - honesty. Brutal, embarrassing, honesty. In a world where people are regularly full of crap, honesty is a rare commodity that is recognized and cherished.

So, while I still feel a little lost, and wonder how long I can keep up this crazy website for, I do have some degree of renewed purpose. I believe two things (for the purposes of this entry):

  1. there are some basic tenets for people who eat and people who make food that if followed can improve our overall culinary existence in this country

  2. there are people all over the world making great food that you should know about, and that I need to eat (the food, not the people)

I'm going to spend the next phase of this site focusing on those two things and we'll see how it goes.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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