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New Year, New Perspectives, January 3, 2006  It's been a long break, but we're back. Finally. With each year that tastingmenu gets written we try to improve so that there's reason to keep coming back. Two years ago we did our first cookbook. Last year we helped put on the tasteeverything awards and put out our second cookbook. We knew we had to top ourselves this year so we've got quite a bit of excitement planned for the year. More publications, the second annual tasteeverything awards, some new accessories, and of course tons of detailed writeups and closeup photos of the best food experiences we can find from all over the planet.

While we rely primarily on our taste buds to decide which of those food experiences to share, perspective does count. And while we feel reasonably well eaten (the culinary equivalent of well read), we often feel that we're lacking enough perspective and experience to really understand the quality of some of the food we're eating.

Here on tastingmenu we're starting a new series of posts called "Tastingmenu gets schooled". This is going to be a three part series, with each part consisting of multiple entries here on the site. In each major part of this series we're going to try and personally broaden our experience so that ultimately the entries on this site get better. The first part involves broadening our culinary palate... in Asia.

It's hard to bring authority to the table on a particular type of food when you've never eaten it in its native country. And while we certainly know which food tastes great to us, it would be better if we had a baseline to compare. Asian food has always been a favorite of ours, but while Japan has been visited many times (with one stop in South Korea as well), we've never been to some of the other countries in the region - and there are many.

For part 1 of Tastingmenu Gets Schooled we're spending a few weeks in Asia - Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, and Tokyo to be specific. Starting with our next post we'll be reporting on all the exciting food happenings that we were able to manage in our relatively short trip. It's not exhaustive, but hopefully it gives enough of a sense of the food in each country - especially China, Thailand, and Cambodia to which we've never been.

As for future parts of Tastingmenu Gets Schooled we'll reveal those as time goes on. Let's go!










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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