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Thursday
October

27

2005
12:09 AM



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Rein's, Vernon, CT, tasted on  July 18, 2004 — The road trip from Boston to New York City heads down interstate 84 south through Connecticut. Growing up in Boston I really had little conception of the rest of the states in New England (or even most of Massachusetts outside of the Boston vicinity). I was actually pretty worldly - traveled to Israel, France, Holland, etc. while growing up. But my local knowledge was scant. Maine was rocky and oceany. Rhode Island was small. And Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut all seemed kind of green to me. I guess I thought that New Hampshire was a republican version of Vermont. And Connecticut just was non-descript. And while I've gotten a little more aware of the geography and special aspects of the various parts of New England, Connecticut is still, well, non-descript. Think of it as the hallway between Boston and New York City. An annoyingly long hallway.

I have my father to thank that the boring trip down 84 south is not without opportunity. He first introduced me to Rein's "New York Style Deli-Restaurant". Rein's is a super crowded, relatively large, high volume deli right off the highway in Vernon, Connecticut. I'm not sure that there are huge volume's to write about it. But let me try and sum it up simply. Connecticut doesn't come up frequently on my travel itinerary. Additionally, I'm not a big fan of car trips, so if I need to get from Boston to NYC, I'll take a plane. That said, in the sea of fast food crap (and no I don't think all fast food is crap) that gathers like lint around the edges of the interstate highway system, Rein's is an oasis. An oasis of pastrami and corned beef. An island of smoked fish and tongue. And maybe most importantly, a reliable spot to get a delicious and (this is super important) crunchy pickle. And when you're stuck for a couple of hours driving through Connecticut, it's hard to ask for more than that.

 

Monday
October

24

2005
12:13 AM



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Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas, NV, tasted on  June 30, 2004 — Las Vegas is a funny place. It's essentially a completely fake place. I'm sure its residents would debate me, but I don't plan on living in Vegas any time soon. It's not that Seattle is so great, but I'm going to claim that Vegas is an even smaller town and if I were to move anywhere it would be to somewhere bigger. So, again, Las Vegas, is essentially a fake place, from a visitor's perspective. And yet, movies are fake and they can be enjoyable. And therein lies the rub. If you're looking for a high quality food experience that invariably involves a fair amount of authenticity, is it crazy to look for it in Las Vegas? On the strip? Maybe. Outside the strip in a super crappy Asian strip mall? Maybe not. In that very strip mall, miles away from the strip is buried Lotus of Siam. A tastingmenu reader (rightfully) gave me crap about always going to restaurants by absentee famous chefs on the strip and said I should try Lotus. So that's what we did. Never say that we don't pay attention to suggestions from readers. (Note: there are also likely many additional delicious Asian hideaways in this strip mall but we didn't have time to check any out - this time.)

Things started off with a few relatively standard Thai restaurant items - specifically we got Chicken and Pork Satay. The satay was good. Peyman particularly liked the pork. I thought the chicken was very good and unexpectedly sweet. The satay was followed by Nam Kao Tod - minced sour sausage mixed with green onion, fresh ginger, peanuts, crispy rice, and lime juice. Sounded great. It had super unique sour and spicy flavors that built up and up until they were super bright. The texture was incredible as well because of the crispy rice.

Next up was the Tom Yum Kung Hot Pot - Thai hot and sour shrimp soup. It was balanced, warm, and had a round flavor profile (think deep). There was disagreement on the Som Thum. Peyman thought this green papaya salad was "soggy". Alex however thought it was one of the better ones he had eaten. Another miss was the Pineapple Rice. Michael was disappointed. (And I can tell you from experience, you don't want to disappoint Michael.) The rice was definitely boring but not without some redeeming characteristics - specifically, the rice was buttery and nicely cooked. That said, did anyone really expect Pineapple rice to be exciting? I suppose if it doesn't make an impression, why put it on the menu.

Next up was the Charbroiled Large (and I mean LARGE) Freshwater Prawns with Chili Sauce. They were enormous. Michael's quote: "A travesty. Like Lobster but worse." The sauces that accompanied the prawns were great. But the prawn meat was dry and not flavorful. Frankly I have never had an oversized prawn where the meat was succulent and tender. I'm not sure why I keep ordering them. OK. I am sure. It's because I hope that when I do get one that is prepared well, there will be so much more of it to enjoy.

We were starting to get a little nervous but the meal ended with a string of hits. First up was the Beef Panang Curry. The curry sauce was flavorful. The beef was tender. The vegetables were crisp. Good. The Koi Soy was billed as "Issan style steak tartare". It had a cool crumbly texture, and then after 60 seconds it became spicy as hell. Very good. And finally, we got the house special - Flat Rice Noodles with Steamed Catfish. This was spectacular. The fish was buttery in texture and flavor. The noodles were subtle. They began with a strange sweetness and were slightly spicy on the finish. They had a perfect soft and firm texture. This dish was fantastic.

I must say that my first venture significantly off the strip to a restaurant that no casino would think about opening up a branch of was excellent. And while I don't know if this upgrades Vegas as a city with a lot going for it, I do hope there are more like it. And who knows. Maybe after a few more finds I'll be eating my words and telling everyone I know about Las Vegas as a culinary treasure of North America. For now, having a great meal at Lotus of Siam will do.

 

Wednesday
October

19

2005
12:09 AM



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Fat Duck, Bray, England, tasted on June 2, 2004 — There are a few restaurants on the planet right now practicing a type of cooking that's both grounded in tradition, and yet best described as... well... exciting. These chefs are trying something new. And yet this is a fundamental paradox as they also recognize the value of cooking within a framework. You can think of a food framework, a tradition, as years of evolution slowly weeding out the bad flavor combinations and letting the strong ones survive. Grandparents aren't typically passing on the recipes for the food that tastes bad to their grandchildren. And even if they did, the grandchildren would likely not want them. And so a small town an hour or so outside of London houses two Michelin three star restaurants. And while one of them is quite good and grounded in French tradition (passed from father to son no less), the other is a center of gravity for experimentation, excitement, and most importantly excellent simply flavorful food. That restaurant is The Fat Duck.

Three stars from the folks at Michelin means something. And that something is usually refinement, lots of crystal, and multiple layers of luxury. And while The Fat Duck is refined, it's also understated and designed. (All the tables are round - not sure what this means.) High end, but super comforting in the English countryside, and most importantly - not stuffy! Often when I go to a high end restaurant I find myself being the youngest person there (by a long shot). That's not a problem for me, but it is kind of odd. Fat Duck had a mix of people at all ages and there was some noise in the dining room. It didn't have the hushed tones of a museum. I try not to focus too much on environment as all I pretty much care about is the food, but you come to expect a certain type of feel at a three star restaurant, and the vibe here was simply refreshing.

For a view into what it's like to work at the kitchen at Fat Duck be sure to check out Phat Duck, a well written blog by a great cook who spent a few months cooking in their kitchen.

Things started off with a small plate of beautiful mild olives. I love a good olive, but I liked that these were mild. Didn't set me off in a particular strong direction. A nice way to spark my appetite. A cute "nostalgia card" was set on the table while I waited for the next attraction. And it was quite the attraction. Specifically, Liquid Nitrogen Poached Green Tea and Lime Mousse. The mousse was dipped and frozen tableside. It came with a short but polite instruction from the waiter "eat it immediately and in one bite". And that I did. Wow! It tasted mostly like lime but with a gentle sweetness. It is slightly too big to put in your mouth gracefully. But I liked that as I thought it set the tone for the lack of pretension in the meal. The pitch was that this frozen concoction would clean out all the oil in my mouth and thereby render my palate completely clean and clear - a canvas on which the kitchen could paint for the next 2-3 hours. And in fact, my mouth did indeed feel super clean as promised. Each component in this little ball of frozen goodness had its role. The vodka apparently was there to remove the fat. i didn't want to eat any more olives as I wanted the "clean slate" to remain for the next dish.

The meal really started to get going with Fresh Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly, Horseradish Cream, Lavendar and Lindi Pepper Tuile. All the flavors in this dish combined into a warm tone yet I could still recognize each one as distinct. It was like they were competing to see which flavor note could be the quietest but still present on your tongue.

Next up the kitchen borrowed a bit from Alain Passard with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho, Brunoise of Cucumber. If you're going to borrow from Passard, this is not a bad thing to borrow. It was a gazapacho, like Passard's but purple and refined and rustic. Unlike Passard they were not trying to smooth out edges of the flavors and textures. They were letting them be what they are. The diced onions were a big part of the dish as well. Nice!

This was followed by Pea Puree, Jelly of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait of Foie Gras. Other than the goie gras, and knowing the Jelly was kind of gamey in a good way, I had a hard time identifying what everything was in this dish. Everything was soft and had a faint air of coffee. Typically that's nto my thing, but this was quite enjoyable. The foie gras pate from the beginning actually tasted "livery" but good. It had an honest quality about it with a slightly rough texture. The portion  size was perfect.

Next was Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham, Shaved Fennel. The porridge was not gluteny (not your father's porridge). It had absorbed some of the fennel flavor and balanced beautifully with the ham. It had a sweet, smokey, warm, and round flavor.

Even though we had a touch of foie gras already I was certainly looking forward to this next dish - Roast Foie Gras, Chamomile, Almond, Cherry and Amaretto Jelly. I really loved this. It was interesting, new, and exciting. The foie gras itself was not super hot temperature-wise but it worked for this dish. the texture of the chamomile and the nuttiness combined to make almost a first impression of peanuts. Then the cherries kicked my ass. The little gelee cubes of sherry were these "bright flavor points" on my tongue. When combining each of the ingredients in this dish for a single bite, millimeters really made a significant difference. And that was kind of cool as each bite ended up being a different journey. I ended up leaving a little of the gelee cream on the plate or it would have drowned out the foie gras. This was a very exciting and enjoyable dish to eat.

The foie was followed by Sardine on Toast Sorbet, Ballotine of Mackerel "Invertebrate" Marinated Dycon and Salmon Eggs. Wow! Again, minute differences in amounts of ingredients in each of the bites I assembled made a huge difference in the flavor. But each combined salt, sour, sea, warm, cold, in an amazing way. The contrasting textures were also fantastic.

It was at this point that I realized that my seven course tasting menu (that I was eating on my own after having been awake most of the night on a flight to London from the west coast of the US was rapidly turning into a 19 course tasting menu. Twelve of the 19 were what I think the kitchen considered more incidental so they didn't count them in the big number. But I knew that I was in for the marathon. I steeled myself to go forward. (It may not be obvious, but eating like this is work - delicious work.)

The next dish arrived like a jewel.Salmon Poached with Liquorice, Asparagus, Pink Grapefruit, "Manni" Olive Oil. It was salmon wrapped in dark gelee and at first glance it looked to me like venison. The gelee was sweet. The salmon was translucent and perfect. Oily in a good way, not dry or flakey. There was apparently licorice in the gelee coating and then fresh licorice was shaved onto dish in front of me. Frankly I was pretty worried as I am hypersensitive to that flavor and I really don't like it (though I do enjoy the star anise in my Vietnamese pho). And it didn't matter. It was great, beautiful, lovely.

Next up was Sweetbread Cooked in a Salt Crust with Hay, Crusted with Pollen, Cockles a la Plancha, Parsnip Purée, and Choux Pontoux. The sweetbreads were excellent. I'm a big fan of sweetbreads when they are cooked properly and these were done right. They were like chicken, veal, and ham combined. The texture was firm not gelatinous. This dish had a perfect fried crust, studded with salt. and the sauce was a concentrated savory deliciousness. The accompanying puree had a distinctly silky flavor and texture. The foam, was substantial as it was super flavorful. The cabbage underneath was perfectly cooked. And I'm not sure how they achieved this, but the texture was crispy and soft. Cool.

The next dish was transitional to the sweet portion of the meal - White Chocolate and Caviar. This bite melts on your tongue for ten seconds combining sweet and creamy, gelatinous and salt. Nice. Next I received a little brochure with an ode to Mrs. Marshall, an unheralded pioneer in the art of ice cream from the late 19th century (according to the pamphlet). Mrs. Marshall's Margaret Cornet was a little super thin ice cream cone with yummy ice cream. The presentation was cute but not kitschy. The restaurant seems to skirt the edge but never go over. I got the impression of a chef and kitchen who are really really into food. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Up until the sweetbreads the pacing really had been perfect, but afterwards things slowed way down.

After the ice cream I got the Pine Sherbet Dib Dab. This was essentially a high end Fun Dip. And in fact it was not bad at all. It had a yummy sour flavor. But ultimately the pine undertone tasted like a cleaning solution to me. I don't think pine will ever be a taste I acquire. But then again, you never know...

Mango and Douglas Fir Puree, Bavarois of Lychee and Mango, Blackcurrant and Green Peppercorn Jelly, Blackcurrant Sorbet follwed the dib dab. There were some nice flavor combinations. The fir was subtle enough that I didn't notice the super slight burning on my tongue until after I saw what was in the dish (it's so hard to separate what your tongue tastes and what your mind thinks). There were harder gelee cubes that were almost like nuts. The colors were vivid and beautiful. There was also an Orange and Carrot Tuile, and a Bavarois of Basil, Beetroot Jelly. The beetroot jelly was concentrated yummy high quality candy.

A little "amuse dessert" came out in the form of Parsnip Cereal, and Parsnip Milk. The cereal came out in a little mini-cereal box just like you get at the super market. It was essentially trying to be Frosted Flakes made out of parsnip. And while it was cute and funny it wasn't super tasty. However, not all was lost, as the next dish served was Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream, Tomato Jam, Salted Butter Caramel, Caramelised Brioche, and Tea Jelly. This reconstructed breakfast for dessert was certainly novel, but to focus on the humor would be missing the point, which was that it tasted fantastic. The bacon and egg ice cream was surprisingly good. But the buttery French toast was excellent! I don't know any other way to describe the brioche other than great eggy sweet French toast. I'm not a big tea guy, but the jelly was refreshing with sharp clean flavors. It felt like it had apple, pear, and grape with a tangy quality as well.

As the meal wound down, I was presented with a small dish of chocolates - Leather, Oak, Pine, Tobacco, Chocolates to be specific. I'm in a bit of a quandry on this one as my notes and the printed menu are in conflict. I'll jus tell you that I thought one of the chocolates I ate was mint. I suppose it could have been the pine but I doubt it as I remember the flavor so clearly even over a year later. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me. Either way, at the time I thought (rightly or wrongly) that it was mint. And despite my aversion to mint combined with chocolate, the mint was surprisingly good. It tasted more herby and straight off the plant as opposed to the more commercial tasting mass produced tasting mint found in most chocolate. The others- Leather, Oak, Tobacco, etc. - were honestly foul tasting. I did try them though. I looked at this as a moment to try new things and try I did. Nobody ever said you'd like everything you tried, just that you wouldn't find any new things to love if you didn't try them.

As if to say, thank you for trying the chocolates (and after all I did end up enjoying one that I thought for sure I wouldn't) the kitchen sent out a final little yummy item - a Pralines Rose Tartlet. The tartlet was fantastic. It was sweet with a thick smooth filling and a super light shell. Great.

Whew! After a meal like this I'm kind of at a loss to sum things up in a way that really does it justice. I'll try anyway. There's lots of writing about the novelty, experiment, inventiveness, and innovation happening at The Fat Duck. Here's what I think the reality is. Yes there's novelty. Yes there are new and interesting and unexpected combinations of ingredients. But essentially you need to clear your mind of noticing all the newness and focus on the flavor. And when you do, you realize two things: 1) the flavors are simply good, clean, and deeply satisfying, and 2) in many instances the flavors are new. So in the end you're left with a bunch of truly great tasting food with simple and clean but passionate flavors, that you've never had before. It's hard to argue with a combination like that. And as such, I can't wait to go back.

 

Monday
October

17

2005
12:04 AM



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Salumi, Seattle, WA, tasted on  May 12, 2004 — I really do try to focus exclusively on the food in every experience that I share. I typically don't worry about atmosphere, service, etc. And ultimately that's because I will put up with almost anything for wonderful food. The one thing I do let color my judgment is location. Not in the sense of whether the restaurant is in a good neighborhood, but simply acknowledging the fact that most people don't get to travel to Italy when they want great Italian food. And while location does have a modest bearing on my judgment, it never catapults something beyond where it should be in my estimation. And so here we are eating in a "mom and pop" Italian deli in downtown Seattle for lunch. And the truth is that there are likely many just like it dotting the east coast of the United States. But in Seattle, there is only Salumi. And in fact, even though Salumi's uniqueness stands out because of its isolation in the pacific northwest, the truth is that its yummy food would make it stand out just about anywhere.

Salumi is basically three things: 1) an Italian deli serving weekday lunches to downtown wokers, 2) a sometime private Friday night dinner establishment favoring only its most regular customers with an invitation (since I work on the outskirts of Seattle I've never been able to go there enough to rise on the Salumi leaderboard), and 3) a salumeria curing their own meats. For most people 1 and 3 are enough to make for a pretty positive experience.

On this day we hauled ass from the suburbs to get to Salumi before the lunch rush. But that really is essentially impossible as there appears to be a line out the door no matter what time you arrive. That said, even though it usually seems highly unlikely, by the time you get through the line and have your food in hand, a spot usually opens up at one of the small tables or the big communal table where friendly customers and serving staff all seem to enjoy and contribute to the friendly atmosphere. But most important is the food.

Taking advantage of the in house meat curing we of course started off with a platter of cured meats and cheeses. The neatest thing was that each of the cured items was spicy in its own unique way. It made for an interesting tour. Our other platter, filled with "hot meat" got lots of envious stares. The brisket in particular was so soft, tasty, juicy, and oily in a good way.

We also ordered a bunch of sandwiches. The lamb sausage was super savory, and especially excellent with chunks of gorgonzola that I added to it as I gorged. Even the simple salami and cheese sandwich was delicious mostly I think because of how simple it was letting the triumvirate of the bread salami and cheese do their thing.

I typically worry about two things with a meatball sub: 1) overly-herbed meatballs and/or sauce, and 2) too much sauce turning the whole sandwich into a soggy mess. Overall things were pretty balanced though. There were definitely herbs in the meatballs, but they didn't distract at all. And finally, the fennel sausage sandwich slathered in tomato, onion, and peppers was gorgeous. The bread did a good job soaking up the juice.

Much in the same way that the sharing a sample of yummy goodness was a telling moment at Katz's, the sample of lamb prosciutto that was delivered to our table was also emblematic of the positivity everyone felt as they ate their lunch. The prosciutto itself had a sheen of beautiful oil, a gorgeous color, and was chewy and a touch gamey in a good way.

Salumi is essentially a neighborhood Italian deli that just happens to cure its own meat. And lucky for those that work in downtown Seattle, Salumi is right nearby.

 

Sunday
October

16

2005
12:11 AM



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Food Festival, Tel Aviv, Israel, tasted on  May 31, 2004 — I love a good food festival. I love the stalls. I love to sample everything. I love all the different options. Or generally I like the idea of it. The reality of course is that often the food is either junk food (which I can enjoy if its good junk food --- mmm fried dough) or its restaurants trying to do something good in a food fair setting, which is almost impossible except within a set of limited constraints that most of them don't respect. I conveniently forgot all this as I was in Israel on business when I was told that there was an annual food festival happening outside Tel Aviv. My reaction? Let's go!

And sure enough, despite my dreams of how the Israeli restaurants would fair better as the local high quality produce and middle eastern influences make Israeli food so very good so very often. But in fact, though there were a couple of standouts, most of it was just like the U.S. And in fact, it was often a little too much like the U.S. In fact, I saw some of the most bizarre corporate marketing I've ever seen in my life. I even shot some video for your enjoyment. How this sold their product, I have no idea. There were still some yummy kebabs to be had (not to mention a surprising amount of shellfish they are right on the Mediterranean I suppose). And if your expectations are set properly, it's not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. But I still dream of better... the food festival composed entirely of vendors who are great at making street food. Middle Eastern street food vendors. This would be perfect I think.

 

Thursday
October

13

2005
7:32 PM



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Katz's Delicatessen, New York, NY, tasted on  May 8, 2004 — This seems like an appropriate way to break the fast. I'm not sure how much value my words can offer in this case. Quite simply, Katz's Delicatessen is one of the most enjoyable eating experiences of my life. I admit, the atmosphere is not without its impact. Informal is a technically accurate but almost glib description. It's more like chaotic, messy, and homey. But the good feeling at Katz's really shines through as expressed through their cured meats. The Jewish people have made a major sacrifice by avoiding pork. The variety of cured pork products, all terribly delicious, is really astounding. And all are off limits. But not without its own resourcefulness the Jewish people have their own adopted cured meat delicacies, and high quality pastrami is at the top of my personal list of favorites.

There is this moment at Katz's where the generosity and quality of the sandwiches are demonstrated literally and metaphorically. This is the moment you are standing in line and still several minutes from your first bite. It's at that moment, when you're salivating, starting to get impatient, and peering over the counter to get a glimpse of what's to come, that the friendly sandwich maker behind the counter serves up a hunk of pastrami or corned beef on a plate for you to sample. And this is no tiny sliver... "hefty chunk" is usually a more apt descriptor. And even though it's just a start, it's symbolic. Symbolic of how the sandwich is going to attend to your most basic needs for comfort, love, sustenance, happiness, and smoked cured meat. The Katz's folks know that you need a little bit right at that moment and they show up with their sample as if they've read your mind. The sandwich that follows fulfills the promises of that sample beautifully. And of course, the pickles are great too. I keep meaning to try something other than a hot pastrami sandwich with a pickle at Katz's but since I don't get to New York as often as I'd like, really, what's the point?

 

Tuesday
October

11

2005
7:51 AM



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Spice Market, New York, NY, tasted on  May 8, 2004 — For some time now I have come to the conclusion that street food is among the best food you can get in the world. The question is, can the intangibles of Southeast Asian street food survive translation by Jean-Georges Vongerichten into a chic and sleep restaurant in Manhattan? The challenge is really one of authenticity. I have rewritten this paragraph several times to try and make it not sound negative, because it's not meant that way. The truth is that if you try to recreate some jewel of ethnic authenticity, by definition you lose something. This is natural as you aren't serving one dish from a stall in a night market in Chiang Mai. It's just different. That said, being different doesn't mean you can't be great. And so we're eating on this day at Spice Market.

I'm sure the designers would cringe, but Spice Market feels to me like a hip Disney does Singapore chic, but understated. The details are really well done. And the environment feels great. I normally don't really care about decor but I was struck by how hard they'd tried to make a beautiful place to eat. And I think this place was very positive. There was a beautiful open kitchen with a snaking bar making its way in and out of nooks and crannies facing the kitchen. There was also a beautiful temple-like structure that you had to go through to the downstairs bar and bathrooms. Really quite lovely.

This is going to sound terrible, but one of the main things that distinguishes this eating environment from a traditional street food environment is that... well... Spice Market is very clean. I'm sure there's plenty of street food stalls that are clean too (as well as many that aren't) but I'm not the health inspector, it's more a statement of "feeling" and frankly, the "grunge" factor does contribute to some of the difference in how you feel at the restaurant. I'm not suggesting I'd prefer a dirtier restaurant, just pointing out the differences that challenge authenticity.

Most important however is, of course, the food. And on that front, Spice Market fared very well. Soon after we sat down were delighted to get a plate full of Pappadums. This particular variation was crispy, thick, and yummy. These were soon followed by Vietnamese Spring Rolls which were amazing and light with perfectly fried skins surrounding hot chunks of shrimp inside. Given the profusion of fried spring rolls in the world its hard for them to stand out (to me anyway). But these were truly special.

Next up was the Black Pepper Shrimp with Sun-Dried Pineapple. This dish had bright strong flavors complemented by crunchy jicama and grilled pineapple which was particularly juicy and delicious.  The Chicken Skewers with Peanut Sauce were a touch dry, but salty in a good way. Unfortunately the peanut sauce didn't have much flavor.

I was particularly intrigued by the Lobster Roll with Dill and Sriracha. It was a gorgeous little sushi-like maki roll with flat rice noodle instead of nori and chunks of beautiful fresh lobster filling the roll. I love clean simple flavors and this looked very good. Interestingly there were also big cubes of citrus jelly dotting the inside of the roll with the lobster. And as novel a complement as they were for the lobster they were a touch dominating. This dish I think could have been really wonderful if it had been more in balance.

If I had to articulate the center of gravity for food that I like it would be refined clean simple and interesting flavors. And frankly, refined but authentic ethnic food is always one of my favorites. I didn't know what to expect from the Spice Market rendition of Tom Yum Goong (Thai hot and sour shrimp soup) but I was happy I ordered it. It was very very good. The flavors were very refined and clean with a sharp kick on the finish. The Brown Rice was interesting and a nice complement in general, especially to the Charred Chili Rubbed Beef Skewer. It was super juicy with a kaffir lime flavor I think. The cilantro sauce was also good. Roee, who had accompanied me on this meal said "super, I dig it."

We did get one main dish, the Shrimp and Noodles specifically. The noodles had a lovely and delicious sour and spicy film on them that made them quite good. The shrimp themselves were grilled with savory dry seasonings and accompanied by fresh chili sauce and scallions. Everything in this dish was really great especially with all the contrasting textures.

We were eating a late lunch and had to hurry a bit as the kitchen closed at 3pm. We were bummed but I do understand that the kitchen can't stay open all day for 2 customers. It was annoying however when someone in a position of authority who saw me taking pictures came by and rudely told me to stop photographing. Luckily I'd a) already taken a zillion pictures of the food, and b) had already decided that I'd really enjoyed the food. Not that her being so controlling would have changed my opinion about the food, but it would definitely have put a bit of a damper on lunch.

We went on to dessert. The Flan we ordered was weak. But the Sorbet very good. The fruit flavor built slowly with a touch of alcohol. This was followed up by a Cookie Goodie Bag. The  peanut butter cookie was great. It was salty... like... peanuts! The coconut chocolate chip cookie was interesting as well.

Here's the thing. We weren't in a floating market outside Saigon. We weren't in the streets of Bangkok. And trying to make believe we were would have been an exercise in futility. But we were in Manhattan eating quite excellent Asian street food in a beautiful surrounding and enjoying every minute of it. And that's pretty great.

 

Thursday
October

6

2005
7:36 AM



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Autumn Omakase, A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino, October 5, 2005 — Just a short note to say WOW! The response to our new electronic cookbook Autumn Omakase, a Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino has been overwhelming. It should be known that these books we've been doing are truly a team effort. I want to thank: Peyman for his gorgeous and authentic photographs, Jenny for the beautiful and natural aesthetic and design, Debbie for her hardcore editing keeping the verbosity to a minimum, and Alex for the days he spent in the kitchen and running around Seattle shopping to make sure the recipes actually worked as written. And of course, Tatsu Nishino and his wife who were gracious enough to share their time with us. Tatsu spent a significant chunk of his busy schedule walking us through (and re-walking us through) every detail of how he prepares those delectable dishes. One of my favorite moments of each of the books we've made has been when we did the test dinner and the chef comes and eats his food that we prepared from a draft of the book. In Tatsu Nishino's case I remember one key moment where he took barely a fraction of a bite into one of the dishes and immediately and gently called back to us in the kitchen "did you forget the salt?" Sure enough. The fact that he zeroed in right off the bat is no big surprise. Still the intimate access that we got to seeing how this wonderful food is made and being able to represent it in such detail and live it (as best we could with our skill set) was really super exciting. Hopefully that comes through in the book itself.

And most importantly, thanks everyone for the huge number of downloads as well as the fantastic feedback on the book. The response of folks on the web is what motivates us to spend all this time making these little creations.

Next post, back to regular programming.

 

Monday
October

3

2005
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Autumn Omakase, A Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino, October 3, 2005 — How do you follow up the making of a first ever beautiful electronic cookbook filled with detailed recipes of incredible food? By making another one.

To be completely truthful, making our first cookbook was a ton of work. And in the final hours of making the last one, we were all happy to be done. But within five minutes of seeing reactions to that initial book, it was clear that we wanted to make another one. But first we had to convince someone to let us do it. We had to find a chef who made fantastic food and was willing to let us obsessively document every detail of how he put together each component of an entire exquisite meal. We immediately identified our target – Tatsu Nishino.

For years now we have loved eating Tatsu’s wonderful food and enjoyed Eri’s warm hospitality. We had actually raised the idea of the cookbook with Tatsu and his wife Eri for some months before our last book came out. I’m relatively sure they had no idea what we were talking about – “an electronic cookbook?” And then one day, we showed up with a copy of the book. They won’t admit it, but I think they were shocked that we had been telling the truth and had actually managed to produce a cookbook. We hope the pleasure Tatsu and Eri and Nishino’s have given us is clearly evident in every page of this book.

And so now, we invite you to download this brand new electronic cookbook, Autumn Omakase, a Tasting Menu from Tatsu Nishino of Nishino. One tasting menu. Nine recipes. One hundred-twenty four pages of obsessive detail. 399 gorgeous photos of every step, not just of the final dish. We're hope you enjoy the use of this book as much as we enjoyed its creation.

     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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