Archive for the ‘About’ Category

Blog for Us

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

For the first time, we are actively looking for bloggers to help spread the word about great places to eat all over the world. You think you’re up for the task? We’ll see. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • You must love food and love to eat.
  • You must take beautiful pictures of the food you eat when you go out to eat.
  • You have numerous opinions on the topic of where to eat and aren’t afraid (and love) to share them.
  • You’re willing to post here on TastingMenu at least once a week or more.
  • You need to find a way to prove to me (Hillel) that you have great taste in food (or at least that we’ll agree most of the time).
  • You love to travel and do it semi-regularly.
  • You recommend restaurants and eating establishments based almost entirely on the flavor and texture of the food. Things like service, decor, typeface of the menu, and even food presentation to a certain extent and price are either not relevant or a distant consideration.
  • You live in Tokyo, London, Paris, Rome, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Bangkok, Tel Aviv or somewhere else with a large selection of extraordinary eating establishments that need to be recommended.
  • You’re an honest and decent human being with a love for recommending wonderful restaurants to friends and strangers alike.

But not so fast, there a bunch of things we’re not looking for:

  • People looking to get paid. There ain’t no money in this gig.
  • People looking to get their meals paid for. (See above.)
  • People looking to tell the restaurant they’re blogging about them in order to get a discount or better treatment. Tacky.
  • People looking to exclusively own the photos/opinions they post to TastingMenu. You can own them but by posting them here you’re giving TastingMenu a perpetual license to do whatever we want with them. [TastingMenu Legal Affairs Department].

What’s in it for you? The distinct pleasure of getting to recommend wonderful food from around the world, not to mention the honor of being on the TastingMenu team. Other than that… not a whole hell of a lot. ;) Oh… but you do get your glamour shot in the sidebar.

If you’re up for the task… get in touch.

More Accolades for Dana

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

It seems like you can’t go more than a few days recently without having someone sing her praises. Of course, it’s all well deserved. Here at Tastingmenu, we’ve known how great Dana is for some time (even before she started writing here — in fact it’s why we wanted her to share her opinions on this site.) The latest praise is from the editor herself of Seattle Magazine. And since Dana would never post it, I will. Allison Austin Scheff writes:

“Dana Cree, the pastry chef at Poppy (and one of the Rebel Chefs from April’s Best Restaurants issue) is the thinking-diner’s pastry chef. She analyzes, tweeks, re-works (and Twitters about all of it @deensie) and all of her smarty-chef work really pays off.”

She goes on:

“The most intriguing thing I tasted was Cree’s sassafrass ice cream, made with anise hyssop and sassafrass root (plus spices). I kept taking small spoonfuls and catching intriguing tastes of this, no that. It didn’t quite taste like a rootbeer float, as our waiter had said, it was more like those little barrel-shaped rootbeer candies, with a strange, illusive heat somewhere that disappeared before you could nail exactly what it was. What a fantastic scoop of ice cream.”

And finally:

“…for a dessert that’ll make you think, that might leave you in awe or open your eyes to possibilities you might not have imagined, do yourself a favor and get to Poppy. Dana Cree’s a serious talent.”

Yay Dana! Go read the entire thing.

The Sweet Chemist

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Amidst the avalanche of press that my co-blogger is getting you might have missed the latest from Seattle Magazine calling her “The Sweet Chemist” and a “Rebel Chef”. I though she just liked trying to make excellent desserts, I didn’t realize she was rebelling. ;)

Check it out.

(Note for Seattle Magazine: how about posting the picture of the rebel chefs on your website so it’s bigger than a thumbnail. I promise it won’t cost you extra money, and it might actually make the picture informative cause you’d be able to see the people in it. OK. Sorry. Done ranting.)

Oh Yeah… My Co-Blogger is Famous and Stuff

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Generally we try not to toot our own horn here on Tastingmenu. And besides, what purpose would it serve, you wouldn’t believe us anyway. You’ll notice I haven’t reviewed Poppy (where Dana is the pastry chef). And believe me, it’s not cause I don’t enjoy eating her desserts. That said, once in awhile we do have to point you to some accolades. And since Dana would never link to it, I will! :)

I’ll quote the relevant parts from the article in today’s Seattle PI:

“Dana Cree, pastry chef at Poppy, made Bruno’s radar on her 2005 Seattle trip, when Cree was working at Veil. But Cree got this StarChefs’ call when she had been at Poppy just four days, with none of her creations on the menu.

She pulled mental ideas out of a hat. She prepared a talk on the Concord grape-rosemary sorbet that reflected some of her talents and interests. But she still didn’t feel prepared — and then, 90 minutes before she was scheduled to start plating her dishes, she began feeling nauseated and dizzy.

It turned out to be the start of the worst case of food poisoning she has had — and, she said, the luckiest. When she made her way down to the tasting team, they told her “we’ll come back in six weeks.”

When they did, judges wrote that Cree “impressed the hell out of us” with a bittersweet chocolate terrine paired with five garnishes, her “little black dress” of desserts that she makes to show that chocolate can go with anything, and an herbed-cider sorbet with pine nut “Crackerjacks”.

“She blew me away. This girl is one of the top five pastry chefs in the country right now, ” Bruno said.

The “Rising Star” recognition is meant for chefs who are 40 and younger and are “really making a difference in their culinary community,” Bruno said.”

Uh… kick ass! Yay Dana.

The Long Dark Blogcation is Over

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

OK. It’s been a little quiet around here lately. But we’re getting back in gear. Clear out the cobwebs and chase away the tumbleweeds. Time for more incredibly articulate and original food writing, photography, and some videos that hopefully aren’t too crappy.

Q and A

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

I like to troll Craigslist and other job posting sites for pastry jobs.


I like to know where other pastry chefs work and who hires a pastry staff.  I have always done this, no matter how happy or unfulfilled I am at a job.   I look at the listings in New York, Chicago, Portland, and the Bay Area for the most part.  I like to know my niche in the industry.  And yes, I am also a little nosy.

Clarklewis in Portland recently posted an add for a pastry chef and included a series of questions.   Since I am clearly employed and don’t live in the city, I won’t be sending them my resume or answers.  But I though it was interesting and thought I’d offer a glimpse into my own pastry chef personality to you.

I’d love to hear your answers too, whether you are a pastry chef or just an enthusiast.

Favorite 3 desserts?

To eat; butterscotch pudding, brownie sundaes with hot fudge, tiramisu

To make; composed desserts, tall proud American layer cakes, pies of all sorts

What would your last meal on earth be?

A big hot dog with ketchup, mustard, and chopped onion, plain potato chips, and an icy cold coca cola from a bottle.

-Name one thing you can’t live without?

For me; coffee

For my desserts; real vanilla beans

-Chef Pants: Checks, Stripes or Solid?

Solid black for chefs, checks for cooks, strips are tolerable, but NEVER anything with chili peppers or prints.  Never.
-What is your favorite cookbook?

On food and cooking by Harold McGee.

-Celebrity Chef?

A contradiction in terms.  Chefs work in kitchens, celebrities are personalities on TV and in the media.  Acting as a chef and acting as a celebrity are different things.

-Favorite farmers market?

The university district farmers market.  It’s big, it runs year round, it’s full of real farmers, bee keepers, cheese makers, foragers, orchard keepers, snacks, flowers.  It’s by my house, and I always run into people I know.

Five Years of TastingMenu

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

This past August TastingMenu quietly celebrated its fifth birthday. Even though much celebration hasn’t transpired on the surface, we’ve been busy behind-the-scenes getting the site refreshed to suit our goals for improving the site dramatically.

The last year has been one of transition for TastingMenu. We moved (mostly) to a new platform – WordPress, and we welcomed Dana on board. WordPress is great, and Dana brings a fantastic new dimension to the site. However, even with the move to the new platform the site has still been kind of scotch taped together. Posting photos has been hacky with using flickr instead of having our albums and photopages like before. And huge components of the site still haven’t moved over to WordPress.

Today is the start of fixing all that. The first and most dramatic improvement is the brand new design (have fun finding the heat lamp). I feel like TastingMenu had a decent look and feel for the first couple of years, but the state of web design rapidly eclipsed my meager design abilities and TastingMenu has looked not as good as it should. If we’re going to have a kick ass blog about restaurants a crappy design is clearly unacceptable. This is where Jenny Lam, one of my partners from from Jackson Fish comes in with a completely new aesthetic that finally brings the site into the modern age. We want TastingMenu to kick ass and that means down to the last pixel. Jenny has certainly knocked it out of the park.

Walter Smith, my other partner over at my day job, has also taken a few cycles to build us a new photo management system that will make its debut next week. That too creates exactly the user experience we’ve wanted forever. (Yes, I was shocked too that not a single WordPress photo management plug-in did what I wanted.)

I wish we could roll all these changes out at once including moving every page, post, and photo on the site into the new templates and technology at once. That’s unfortunately not going to happen. This means that lurking in the archives of the site you’ll run into plenty of old design presentation. You may even run into a couple of broken spots. For this you have my deepest apologies. Oh WordPress, where were you five years ago?

Dana and I (and Walter and Jenny) want to thank you for your patience through all the changes so far and the ones to come. We promise they’ll be worth it when the site runs smoothly, looks great, and features tons of new posts and photos.

Thank you!

Behind The Scenes (and what’s Hillel up to?)

Monday, August 27th, 2007

My lovely and talented blog buddy Dana has pointed out that I have not been around much lately. She is of course correct. This blog is supposed to be about the kitchen AND the front of the house, not just the kitchen (as interesting as it may be). For the last month I was on vacation for a month. Dana and I discussed putting the blog on vacation for the month (as I usually do each summer) but Dana wanted to keep posting. And she’s been kicking ass at it. But now that I’m back I still haven’t done my blogging duty. Believe it or not there is work happening behind the scenes.

We are feverishly working on a blog redesign as well as a new way to post photos. When we moved the blog to wordpress we put together a hastily designed template that looks ok, but is not at the level we really want. Additionally, we moved to the temporary method of posting our photos to flickr and embedding slideshows. That’s been pretty unsatisfying for most people. In addition to the new design work that’s happening, we’re writing our own WordPress plug-in (because literally none of the 200 available do the simple thing we want) to post photos. You may point out that to sacrifice blogging to write our own plug-in is insane. And that may be true. But it’s the path we’re on nonetheless. ;)

I promise I have collected a whole series of cool posts with accompanying pictures from my month in Israel and can’t wait to share all the delicious food finds. To make this post not totally devoid of culinary content I will include this lovely shot of a gorgeous plate of hummus at the Aboulafia restaurant in Jaffa, Israel. I promise it tasted as good as (if not better than) it looks.

hummus at aboulafia

Thanks everyone for your patience (and thanks to Dana for keeping things moving along so interestingly). :)

Tastingmenu 2.0

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

I’ll admit it. I’ve been sick of food.

OK. Not really, but sort of. I’ve eaten at hundreds of restaurants. I’ve written tons of write-ups and taken thousands of photos. I’ve had some incredible meals. And most importantly I’ve learned an enormous amount. And while the number of things I don’t know about food still outnumber the things I do know by 10,000 to 1 (or more), I still do enjoy learning. And yet, I’ve been feeling lethargic and uninspired.

I have always loved sharing superlative food experiences with friends and family. Tastingmenu has always been an expression of that passion. When I’m having a hard time finding food experiences that are exciting, I have a hard time finding things to share with readers. I’ve been wrestling with the problem of how to make tastingmenu exciting, focused, and vibrant, and I’ve finally come upon the answer.

I met Dana Cree when she was a cook at Lampreia restaurant in Seattle. Dana, a Seattle native, is a young chef who has been building her career thoughtfully for several years now. After a short stint at culinary school, Dana spent significant time at Lampreia. She then worked at the Fat Duck (in England), Eva (in Seattle), and has just started the latest step in her burgeoning and exciting career at the Rainier Club (also in Seattle).

For a long time I’ve known that another voice, a complementary voice would really make tastingmenu much much better. And as I wrestled with how to reignite my passion around food I realized that adding Dana’s voice would do the trick. While I have always (and will continue) to focus my writing on what it’s like to eat at and experience some of the finest restaurants, food stalls, and food venues across the planet, Dana is on a mission to become a creator of some of that memorable and incredible food. Her resume already speaks to her early success. Her popular blog, Phat Duck, has also given her plenty of experience writing thoughtfully and intimately about her trials and travails in the kitchen for a loyal readership.

I’m pleased to announce that Dana is joining tastingmenu as of today. She and I are both encouraging her loyal readers to join us over here at tastingmenu to continue to follow her growing career and her insightful perspective. We believe that writing focused on the restaurant experience (which we both adore) from behind the plate as well as behind the stove will prove interesting, exciting, and fun.

In addition to Dana joining the team, we’ve made one more key change which hopefully should improve the tastingmenu experience for authors and readers alike. When tastingmenu began in August of 2002 there was no good blogging software. (Apologies to those packages that existed then, but none really allowed me to make the site look the way I wanted.) I’m embarassed to admit it, but tastingmenu has been built manually since its inception. And when I say manually, I mean completely manually. The RSS feed is built by hand. Those of you not into these technical details will yawn at that, but folks who understand these matters will consider this remarkable. Remarkably stupid. But all that is over. As of today tastingmenu is published by the lovely and powerful WordPress software.

The entire old site has come along for the ride in its old form. The urls remain the same. The old site will have the old look, and won’t get too much of the new fun and features, but at least it will be there. Thanks for your patience while we work through this transition. And please accept our apologies in advance if you encounter random inconsistencies and broken links. We’ll try and fix them as we go.

One side effect of the old system (or lack thereof) is that posting had actually become more and more difficult taking way more time than it should have. Hopefully this new streamlined system will result in it being easier to post, and therefore, more posts. Wish us luck. :)

That’s it for now. Tastingmenu has always been focused on superlative restaurant experiences. Now you get that focus from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. We’re excited to embark on this new chapter of tastingmenu. We hope you are too.