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Friday
March

31

2006
12:10 AM



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A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - Conclusion, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — Well, our week at Culinary Institute of America Bootcamp for food enthusiasts (food nerds) is officially over. We;ve had posts introducing the week, as well as discussing the facilities, student life, the lectures, cooking, the food we made, and eating at the restaurants on campus. Here are the photo albums from the week:

06 cia main building.jpg11 grand buffet.jpg06 john fischer.jpg

21 mozarella prosciutto and roasted tomato terrine.jpg06 bruschetta with oven roasted tomatoes and fontina cheese.jpg08 flan.jpg

I tried to describe our week really honestly and in a balanced fashion. There were definitely ups and downs. Aside from the restaurant though most  of the inconsistencies stemmed from the issue of what level of expertise we had going into the class, and what our expectations were of the class.

Participants in the class ranged from a relative novice who had an interest in cooking in their own kitchen and trying recipes from magazines, to some folks who really enjoyed cooking and made a habit of taking on more adventurous projects like difficult baking or barbecuing, all the way to us who have made a habit not only of trying difficult cooking projects, but were mostly there to understand more about how the food we've eaten across the planet is prepared and what..

Continue reading Conclusion...

 

Tuesday
March

28

2006
12:50 AM



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08 flan.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - The Restaurants, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — We've spent several posts describing every detail of the week spent at C.I.A. Bootcamp. One of the perks of bootcamp is eating at the on-campus restaurants each night for dinner. These are typically hard-to-get reservations and the students at bootcamp are escorted to the front of the line.

Given that creating people who can earn a living in professional food service environments is the goal of the school, the restaurants should be examples of some of the best cooking that the school can produce. While the students are serving food every day from kitchens throughout the school, these are the only ones serving paying customers from outside the surrounding area. On the other hand, the restaurants are staffed primarily by students who rotate through (working as waiters too) every few weeks. So consistency is bound to be a challenge.

There are several restaurants at the Hyde Park campus that are open to the public. They are: St. Andrew's Cafe, Ristorante Caterina De Medici, Escoffier Restaurant, American Bounty Restaurant, and the Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe. Our dinners were planned each night for the...

Continue reading The Restaurants...

 

Wednesday
March

22

2006
12:28 AM



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06 bruschetta with oven roasted tomatoes and fontina cheese.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - Finished Dishes, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — In the last post we covered the actual cooking of the food. At the ends of day two and four we gathered all our creations and laid them out on a table in the hallway outside our kitchen - cruise ship buffet style minus the ice sculptures.

And as much as we learned during the hands on portions of the class, the time in the kitchen was at its most useful in giving a sense of what it's really like to work with professional equipment, in a true commercial kitchen. And frankly the experience is exciting and fun. Unfortunately the food we made, well, to be honest, for the most part wasn't that good. I'm sure that part of it was our lack of skill. But part of it is also about, as discussed earlier, scale. We were cooking lots of dishes for lots of eaters (us mainly). In fact we ended up wasting a lot of food which was kind of a bummer even after all the hungry people sampled our cooking. There were a few dishes that came out decently, but in terms of quality of flavor, texture, and temperature at the time the food was served our dishes were American hotel buffet quality... and not some of the better buffets either.

This fact didn't take away from my satisfaction with the educational experience. In fact it made me appreciate even more how hard it is not just to make food for lots of people with high expectations in a timely fashion, nonetheless make that food really high quality. It's unbelievably difficult. And while learning the key lessons of how to cook at scale don't guarantee you'll make great food at scale, you can't get to great food and commercial success without...

Continue reading Finished Dishes...

 

Monday
March

20

2006
12:55 AM



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21 mozarella prosciutto and roasted tomato terrine.jpg

Click photo to see entire album.

A Week at the Culinary Institute of America (continued) - Cooking, Hyde Park, NY, tasted on December 19-22, 2005 — We're finally back in the swing of things here at tastingmenu, and it's time to pick up where we left off recounting our week taking a class at the Culinary Institute of America (the C.I.A.). We've covered a variety of topics already including: the facilities, student life, and the lectures. Enough beating around the bush, it's time to get to some cooking, and in fact that's today's topic. Cooking in our spacious classroom kitchen. Actually, cooking was what we spent most  of our time doing during the week (with eating a close second) so it's time we got to it.

After lecture each morning we hit the kitchen. Our class was organized into 3-4 person teams. Each team had a series of dishes to prepare. We prepared the first round of dishes over days one and two, and the second round during days three and four. Some dishes or elements of dishes could be prepared a day in advance so it worked out. And this is a fine thing whether cooking for a couple of people, or cooking at a slightly larger scale (a dozen or two) like we were.

In fact, scale is really the operative word when it comes to all the cooking we did. When it comes to food, scale is the enemy of great. A great dish is a living thing. Chemical reactions are happening especially when it comes to hot dishes. And each dish, each ingredient (even ice) has a window in which it's at its peak. Making a great dish is all about...

Continue reading Cooking...

 

Tuesday
March

14

2006
8:27 PM



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2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards, Final Thoughts, March 14, 2006 — The Food Festival ended last Friday and before moving on to our regularly scheduled programming I wanted to just say a few words of thanks and review to everyone who made it happen.

This was our second time putting on the event. Forty-seven of the best food bloggers on the net participated this year (that's seventeen more than last year). Together these blogs reach hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of readers every month. Some of them have large readerships, some have small devoted ones, but most importantly they each have someone at the helm who is passionate about what they write about. Today's commercial mainstream media is often carefully crafted and tuned to wring the maximum economic value out of the content. That also means that it often injects the minimum editorial value. This is not to say that making money is bad or that all mainstream media is crap. But there's no doubt that when one of these bloggers wants to write about something they care about there's no budget for the number of words, or the number of pictures they can share to express their thoughts. And the fact that all these folks volunteered to choose one special experience or item from their previous twelve months' food adventures and recognize it in detail with text and photographs is pretty cool.

They are:

I've been reading many of these blogs for years, and some of them were brand new to me, having found them while looking for great blogs to participate. I bet if you browse them you will discover as many gems in the blogs themselves as you did among the foods and experiences they recognized.

Next post, we're back to our series on our week at the Culinary Institute of America.

 

Friday
March

10

2006
8:35 AM



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The Best Peanut Brittle I've Ever Eaten, 2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day Five, March 10, 2006 — Today is the final day of the awards. All the participating bloggers have done a great job. Make sure to go back and read through the dozens of posts across day one, day two, day three, day four, and now day five.

So without further ado, it's time for tastingmenu to issue it's award. I have to admit that I have been debating for the last month which award to give out. Amazingly I was first encountered the recipient of my award today! Neat. This morning I happened to be wandering around the Granville Public Market in Vancouver, British Columbia. And wandering by a tray of Peanut Brittle samples. Peanut brittle is constantly teasing me. I love peanuts and the wide variety of peanut-related products that I find across the planet. But peanut brittle has always tantalized me with its sweet peanuty crispiness. Unfortunately it's usually too hard, too sweet, and gets too caught in my teeth.

Not so with these little pieces. Big chunks of peanut, sweet crystalline texture, this brittle was delicious. Rather than being overly heavy, it was light and airy. Crunchy and crispy rather than sticky and dense. Honestly this is the best peanut brittle I've ever eaten. The sweet buttery flavor had an incredibly long finish.

Make sure to visit Olde World Fudge at the Granville Public Market, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their phone number is (604) 687-7355.

 

 

 

Thursday
March

09

2006
12:40 AM



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2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Days Three and Four, March 9, 2006 — The last two days have been pretty exciting around here. Almost fifty of the top food bloggers on the planet have gathered to share some of their favorite culinary experiences of the past year. Peruse the awards and you will immediately get a sense of the vast amount of creativity and passion that has come together to make this year's awards (the second in our brief history) a success.

Day three featured chocolate, coffee, a gorgeous looking cake without almost anything you'd expect, the first of our New Orleans related awards, and much more.

Day four was also strong, two kinds of charcuterie, ice cream, a bowl of soup from Germany, and a moving award for a husband and wife team from New Orleans.

Tomorrow is the final day for this year's awards. Hopefully I'll have my very own award ready in time. See you tomorrow. There will be lots of great new awards given out.

 

Tuesday
March

07

2006
12:02 AM



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2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day Two, March 7, 2006 — Things have started off with a bang. Day One was filled with very cool awards. Day Two has even more. There's fish sauce, ice cream, smoked fish, Vietnamese subs, and even a hamburger that doesn't exist anymore. Check them out.

It's funny, but I really do love these awards. There are  many reasons. First, they're given out by food bloggers. I've said this many times, but I think there's something unique about the food bloggers versus the mainstream food press. Mostly that the bloggers are doing it out of love (and some sick obsession ; ) where the mainstream folks can't help but be sucked into the economics of their publications. This is not to say all bloggers are great and all mainstream food journalists suck. That said, I feel pretty proud that we have an amazing selection of folks giving out awards this year.

The other thing I really like about it is that there's no voting. Each blogger gives out an award to the recipient of their choice in a category that comes from their own imagination. The awards are deeply personal and meaningful and yet there's no "competition" where several nominees lose. Not to be overly idealistic, but it just feels nice.

Anyway, check out Day Two, and all the great websites that have posted their awards. I'll be busy working on mine which is scheduled to post this Friday, Day Five of the awards.

 

Monday
March

06

2006
12:47 AM



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2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day One, March 6, 2006 — We still have way more to cover in terms of our week at the C.I.A. but duty calls. One year ago we had our first ever tasteEverything event - the 2005 Independent Food Festival & Awards. Thirty bloggers gave awards to some of their favorite food experiences of the year. This year we have even more. So many in fact that the awards are being given out over a five day period.

Check out Day One of the awards. Today's awards hand crafted soy sauce from Malaysia, all the way to an independent coffee shop in New York. Keep checking back each day for more awards until the big conclusion this Friday.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

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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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