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Tuesday
February

28

2006
12:08 AM



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06 john fischer.jpg

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A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - Lectures, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — It's time to focus on the actual class we took at the C.I.A. A little background is in order. As I mentioned before, we owe a debt to Michael Ruhlman who wrote The Making of a Chef. At this time the only way to take a class at the C.I.A. was to be a well-established writer and bargain with the administration to audit some of the classes. The book was great. Never too proud to steal a good idea we decided to do the same thing. In the meantime however the C.I.A. has added to their degree classes and professional one week classes with an offering called "Boot Camp" targeted at food enthusiasts (i.e. us). Needless to say, boot camp seemed to be the right option for us.

The class basically spans four days. The days are filled with lecture, cooking, eating the food we cooked, and dining at the on-campus restaurants in the evening. There are several different boot camps offered. (Not as much variety as offered at the pro level but still decent.) The nice thing about the boot camp is that for people who've never been to a professional cooking school it's really a nice introduction. They provide you with the chef outfits. You can purchase your knife and tool kit from them. And they make the class into really more of an experience with tours of the campus and even a guest lecture or two. For most people the boot camp seems like a really great option. For us, even though we had a great time, it turns out it actually may not have been the optimal choice, but...

Continue reading Lectures...

 

Monday
February

27

2006
12:37 AM



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11 grand buffet.jpg

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A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - Student Life, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — Being at the C.I.A. for a week obviously couldn't give us a complete sense for life on campus. But we got glimpses. Glimpses that frankly made us jealous. Don't get me wrong, it was clear everyone was working hard in a very disciplined environment (for some reason students aren't allowed to wear hats... we saw two occasions on which faculty members came up to students reminding them sternly to remove non-toques). What follows hopefully gives you a slight taste of what it's like to be a student at the C.I.A which is essentially why we were there in the first place.

Most of the students on campus are there for 2 and 4 year programs. But because of the way the school operates they appear to take 18 and 36 months respectively. Apparently there's a rolling three week window giving folks an opportunity to start their education every three weeks. As we toured the facilities we got a chance to see the students in action. We would pass various classrooms with students engaged in every manner of the study and practice of cooking, baking, and professional food preparation and management. The students usually looked pretty happy too. We got plenty of smiles and waves as our obviously non-regular student bunch peered in through windows with wide eyes watching a couple of dozen kids...

Continue reading Student Life...

 

Wednesday
February

22

2006
12:17 AM



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06 cia main building.jpg

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A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - The Facilities, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — I'm going to attempt to give you a sense of our week at the C.I.A. Rather than describe things in strict chronological order I'm going to focus on a few themes from the experience. There's a lot to cover so hang on. The first thing that has to be called out is the first impression that the school makes on you.

Let's acknowledge that if you're reading this blog (and certainly if you're writing it, which I am) you (and I) have spent time romanticizing particular food experiences as well as the process that results in the creation of the chefs that cook the food you love. I'll apologize in advance for anyone for whom this analogy doesn't work, but the C.I.A. is essentially Hogwarts for food. It's just like a regular school except everything is focused on food. It's enough to make an adult giggle. I'm not even sure why. I guess if you're into food, going to a school where they take it so seriously is...

Continue reading The Facilities...

 

Monday
February

20

2006
12:31 AM



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A Week at the Culinary Institute of America, February 19-22, 2005 — Some of the first words written on this site were me saying the following: "I have no credentials, formal training, education, or any other official form of credibility when it comes to the world of food, cooking, and eating. The only quality I bring to the discussion is a view that every mealtime is an opportunity  - and opportunities are not to be squandered. That as well as my voracious appetite for yummy food will hopefully serve us well." And while I know what I like, I can't help but imagine that understanding more about how the food I love (and the food I don't love) is made will give me better perspective in terms of finding great culinary experiences and describing them appropriately.

Here on tastingmenu we've created a series of posts called "Tastingmenu gets schooled". We're planning on it being 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 described our trip to Asia to broaden our culinary palate. This next part is a little bit different.

 

 

To gain more perspective a few of us decided to take a week long "Boot Camp" class at the Culinary Institute of America. The C.I.A. as it's referred to is widely considered to be among the best, if not the best cooking school in the United States. I really had no idea what to expect and frankly was a little embarrassed at going. It was like going to baseball fantasy camp and playing next to the young college players who are trying to have a real career in the sport. We were playing dress up while they were working to try and earn a living. That said, being embarrassed never stopped me before, and now was no different. Off we went to Hyde Park, New York, home of the C.I.A.

 

Friday
February

17

2006
12:12 AM



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Tastingmenu Gets Schooled #1 Asia, February 17, 2006 — After our December break we embarked on a new series here at tastingmenu where we "get schooled". The first part has been the recounting of our almost three week trip to Asia. It's long been a dream of mine to really travel around Asia and experience so much of the food firsthand. It's been a challenge for example loving Thai food my whole life and never tasting it in Thailand and knowing what the true baseline is. I'd been to Tokyo before, but Hong Kong, Bangkok, and  Cambodia were all new for me. I don't know that I have any deep or insightful lessons learned from my trip other than I can't wait to go back.

After roughly 26 proper meals (not including food on planes and grabbing random stuff for breakfast) I feel like even though I barely scratched the surface of what's available in the region, it was well worth it and my horizons were definitely broadened. The number of truly stellar meals I had in such a short time was pretty fantastic. And Asian food is still my clear favorite spectrum of ethnic cuisine. Below I've included links to the entire catalog of imagery from the trip. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, back to Hong Kong, and Tokyo.  426 photos. Click on the thumbnails below to check out each of the albums. Enjoy.

16 sausage bun.jpg 24 even more truffle shaving.jpg 08 mee grob.jpg
03 green curry of river fish dumplings.jpg 01 fish balls.jpg 07 chaw muang.jpg
23 mise for tom yam.jpg 10 chicken with black bean and chili hunan style.jpg 20051207-phnompenh 396.jpg
20051210-siemreap 392.jpg 10 roast goose.jpg 09 dan dan noodles.jpg
10 deep fried chicken poking out between the chilis.jpg 21 deconstructed zucchini.jpg 03 foie gras soup - chaud froid.jpg
12 spaghettini with meat sauce of guinea fowl and kyoto vegetables.jpg 25 cauliflower viole potato and broccoli puree with pork veal truffle and font de veau.jpg

 

Starting next week we go on to part #2. You'll have to wait until then to see what it is. I promise it's very different than a trip across Asia.

 

Wednesday
February

15

2006
12:57 AM



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25 cauliflower viole potato and broccoli puree with pork veal truffle and font de veau.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Sant Pau, Tokyo, Japan, tasted on December 15, 2005 — Given my love for foreign cuisines interpreted in Tokyo it shouldn't surprise you that I was up for Spanish food. Sant Pau is a famous restaurant in Barcelona, Spain and part of the Relais Chateaux high end restaurant and hotel association. I didn't realize that they were part of Relais Chateaux before I went. On the one hand that pretty much guarantees a particular type of high end dining experience. On the other hand, sometimes you wonder if the definition might be too narrow. Either way I was open minded and excited about the meal. European transplant it might be, I think the influence of Japan is hard to ignore no matter what tradition you bring with you.

I was escorted from the front door up to the dining room. Passing by the entire Spanish ham waiting to be carved was a positive omen. It was like seeing some sort of symbol of good fortune hanging over the door of an environment you're about to enter. In other words, Serrano ham in the house means...

Continue reading Sant Pau...

 

Monday
February

13

2006
12:22 AM



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12 spaghettini with meat sauce of guinea fowl and kyoto vegetables.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Canoviano, Tokyo, Japan, tasted on December 14, 2005 — I've recounted countless times my love affair with the standards in Japan when it comes to food. The emphasis on freshness, flavor, simplicity and the general high bar makes for a different food world than almost any city on earth (including Paris and New York). And even though before you get to Japan this might not occur to you, the fact remains that those standards remain in place when the Japanese apply themselves to non-Japanese food. One of the cuisines that highlights these same values around freshness, flavor, and simplicity the most is Italian food. And frankly, the best Italian food I've had outside Italy has been in Japan. In fact, in some cases the Italian meals I've had in Tokyo have been better than many of the meals I had in Italy. No restaurant that I know of represents this better than Canoviano in Tokyo.

Located next to the Daikonyama subway stop, Canoviano is buried in a smaller residential  neighborhood than you might expect. But in Tokyo where space is at a premium it appears they long ago stopped worrying about where the appropriate location for something was. The appropriate location appears to be wherever it will fit. Even though I had been there before, I was worried about finding it. The neighborhood maps at subway stops are  always extremely helpful.

This restaurant had made quite an impression on me in the past and I felt good coming back. Things felt comfortable and happy. The crusty bread had a soft and dense inside and was placed right on the tablecloth. I couldn't help but make a sizable mess of it and blew the crumbs off the table when nobody was looking. The olive oil for dipping was among the softest, warmest, and roundest flavors I've ever encountered. Silky excellence. Would it be wrong to want to bathe in it? OK. Pretend I didn't say that. That's kind of weird.

First up was Cold Cappelini with Raw White Fish and Bottarga. I don't know that this is the right word, but...

Continue reading Canoviano...

 

Thursday
February

9

2006
12:23 AM



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03 foie gras soup - chaud froid.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Tapas Molecular Bar (Part II), Tokyo, Japan, tasted on December 13, 2005 — When you're documenting a 25 course meal a break is sometimes necessary. This is continued from Part I of our description of our meal at Tapas Molecular Bar in the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

We left off half way through the Degustation portion of the menu. Next up was Foie Gras Soup - Chaud Froid. It was essentially a foie gras cappuccino. It didn't taste hugely of foie gras, but had plenty of eggy custardy foamy goodness. It was quite fantastic actually, like a savory hot whipped egg nog. Starbucks, please consider offering this. :) The foie soup was followed by Fish and Chips. Chef Ramsey used bread instead of panko or crumbs to coat the fish. The tzatziki sauce that accompanied included lemon bits and dill. The super thin slice of bread came out extra buttery and crispy. The fresh dill and juicy spurting lemon bits were a perfect accompaniment. (Yes. Spurting.)

The fish and chips dish was followed by a Curry Bun. Roasted quail was on the left side of the plate with a...

Continue reading Tapas Molecular Bar (Part II)...

 

Tuesday
February

7

2006
12:51 AM



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21 deconstructed zucchini.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Tapas Molecular Bar (Part I), Tokyo, Japan, tasted on December 13, 2005 — There is a rap on the latest wave of experimental cutting edge food. It's more about technological wizardry than flavor. It's not based in any culinary tradition. It's more chemistry than cooking. It's not timeless. It's about being cute and clever instead of delicious. And if that's not damning enough, the critic will finally add: "and it's not even original. They're just copying Ferran Adria of El Bulli." I have varied opinions on each of these criticisms. I've spent plenty of time writing about the state of innovation in cooking before. Really... take a minute to check it out. At least the first four paragraphs. I'll wait.

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OK, now that you know where I'm coming from, what I ultimately care about is whether the food tastes great. Flavor, temperature, and texture are king in my world. I didn't really know what to expect in this regard of the Tapas Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. But it was recommended by the same concierge at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong who recommended Shui Hu Ju. Given my deep and abiding love for Shui Hu Ju I had major trust and confidence in his recommendations. I wasn't sure what tapas molecules were but I meant to get me several helpings (said with this accent).

I could go on for hours describing my love for Tokyo. It's not just  the food. Though that's certainly a huge component. How cool are amazingly beautifully designed hotels with their lobby on the 38th floor of a 60 floor skyscraper? Very very cool. And yes, I am in the habit of answering rhetorical questions. My destination wasn't even a restaurant per se, it was the bar in the lounge. Eight seats, two servings a night. A set menu. That's it. I was lucky to get a place. And did I mention it's a 25 course meal?

Continue reading Tapas Molecular Bar (Part I)...

 

Thursday
February

2

2006
12:24 AM



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10 deep fried chicken poking out between the chilis.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

Shui Hu Ju, Hong Kong, China, tasted on December 12, 2005 — I've mentioned how hard it is to find out how to spend your few precious meals in a new city. Not knowing who to trust for recommendations, etc. I also had this fantasy about how I was going to try out a bunch of underground restaurant's in Hong Kong. That plan wasn't going so well either (though I was eating plenty of excellent food). The concierge at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, a stunning hotel (not to be confused with the just pain old Mandarin Oriental which is also lovely) was really a gem. I told him I wanted to go to Mum Chau's Sichuan Kitchen, what I thought was a Sichuan speakeasy (though given how well known it was it seemed pretty official to me). He said to me, "you seem like the kind of person who appreciates a more intimate and low key experience." He wasn't dissing on Mum Chau's as he thought it was also a great place to try, but he recommended I try Shui Hu Ju. He also had very specific instructions about what I was to order.

After driving in circles for 20 minutes in the cab...

Continue reading Shui Hu Ju...

 

Wednesday
February

1

2006
12:20 AM



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What You Can Do For Your Blog, February 1, 2006 — Sometime in the last couple of years I put a link up to an Amazon tip jar/donation box page. It's gone now. A few of you have given generously. And I thank you very much for your support. It's much appreciated. And although it's not cheap to run this site (you should see the bills for meals :) the fact is that I don't think you should have to pay for the site or for our free electronic cookbooks. Yet, I still do have aspirations of at the very least covering my cost with the earnings from this blog. Rather than ask for money (though there's nothing wrong with that) I want to put all the blogging cycles I have into making this a genuinely special and unique site. I hope that we're already off to a good start. The number of posts is up. January saw not only the introduction of part 1 of our "tastingmenu Gets Schooled" series (the trip to Asia), but also saw the launch of our shop with hopefully cool food graphics (more to come). We've revamped the navigation up top. The 2nd annual Taste Everything awards are coming at the end of the month. We have new books in the works. And we also have some big announcements regarding our food photography - one of the largest food photography collections on the web, and the only one to feature the food of so many of the world's top restaurants. And don't forget, as soon as we wrap up the Asia trip (more Hong Kong and Tokyo remain) we'll do part two of our series. I'll keep it secret for now so as not to spoil the surprise.

Bottom line: we're going to work hard to make tastingmenu even better this year. What can you do to help?

  1. Let us know what you think. If you have suggestions either comment on this post, or send us mail at info [@] tastingmenu [dot] com.

  2. Support our sponsors if you feel so inclined.

  3. And finally, instead of doing telethons or other stuff like that, we're going to ask you to do one simple thing: tell 10 friends about tastingmenu. Yes... we are asking you to spam your friends. (Try to tell friends who might actually be interested so it's not quite as spammy.) Consider this a huge favor letting the world know about our little site. The more readers we have, the more cool things we can do, the more cool places we can visit, and the more cool experiences we can share with each of you. And to make it easier, feel free to wait until we have a post that really warrants it. BTW, telling friends about blogs you read is a great way to support any blog you appreciate, not just tastingmenu.

That's it. Next we'll ask  you to sign up your friends to the tastingmenu long distance service, but we're some months from announcing that. :) In the meantime thanks for being here, next post we're back for one more meal in Hong Kong. It's a good one. I promise.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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