Some of you may not know, but I work extensively on Wikipedia to improve the food and drink articles. In an attempt to get people to work together in a cohesive format a project was started up some time ago which I have taken the regins of in order to keep it going on the right path. The project is entitled WikiProject Food and Drink. We look to come up with proper criteria for the improvement of all articles in the addressed food and drink themes.
We also manage what is know as the Food Portal, which I update each month (which is why I am posting this today, as I just finished updating the portal for the next month) with a high quality featured article which has met certain criteria to be nominated as such. All such articles must be properly sourced and have a decent level of quality to them. There are also some other fun items on there such as a featured food quote (this month's one is really funny) along with a featured person, a picture and some "Did you know...?" facts.
Many academics frown upon Wikipedia, and I can see why as the format for creating articles is pretty open and when sourced, the sources are not always reliable (Ie. third party writers bias). However that is what projects like this one try to avert. I spend a lot of time on this stuff, probably too much but it is a great hobby that actually helps me learn more in the process. Just working on the French cuisine and Italian cuisine articles got me to do a big chuck of research to make those articles up to par.
I hope you take some time and check it out and see what you can learn new about some different food items. There is also a Wine project, along with a cheese project, beer project, herbs and spices project, ice cream project, one for the foodservice profession and others which you can also find links to from my profile on Wikipedia. Enjoy, and if you have some spare time and a desire to work on some articles let me know or just stop by and start working on some of the stuff we have posted in the project.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I think each chef eventually comes up with a gorup of favorite ingredients they end up using over and over again in their repertoire. They may become part of our repertoire because we truly love the ingredient or it ends up becoming so familiar that we feel our cooking would not be complete with out just a little bit of that seasoning. I have a friend who adds Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce to everything.
So I thought I would offer all of you a list of a half dozen items I love to use in my cooking. They aren't all items I use often, some are occasional items that can be difficult to find, but once found and used, you will see why I love them
I have a true appreciation for olive oil in my cooking. My particular love comes from trying many regional and specialty oils produced by artisan craftsman. When I cook Provincial French cuisine, I reach for a variety of oil from that region. If I am cooking Moroccan cuisine I will use an oil produce in that country. Each country in that portion of the world creates their own style of olive oil, be it Italy, Spain, Greece, and you can even find olive oils created in Napa Valley (O is a favorite) or even Australia. You can also get flavored olive oils, with black or white truffle (great in risotto) and I have even been tempted with a wasabi infused oil from Earthly Delights recently which I can't wait to try.
Gone are the days that we once only had iodized or kosher salt to choose from. Today we can get regional sea salts from France, Greece, Spain etc. We can also get volcanic seas salts from Hawaii and Grey sea salt from France (a high moisture salt). If you want salt smoked, you can have it, you can also get it smoked specifically with alder wood, chardonnay oak barrels or other specific woods. Again, regional cuisine desires the salt from the region it is from as those flavors develop in each ingredient used in its dishes from the animal proteins, vegetables and in this care right down to its salt. Did you know that there is a salt museum in Germany?
It's another regional product, you may be noticing a pattern. Nothing beats making a French sauce with a high quality, high-fat content butter (above 80%). All butters in the USA, well mass marketed ones are below 80%. One exception is one made by Plugra at 82.5% butterfat content. Another American favorite is from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company with a ridiculous 86% butterfat. Now I suppose you could put this on your toast in the morning, but I use it for pan searing items and finishing my sauces with. The European counterparts include my favorite from France, Isigny.
Sometimes I feel like an Englishman from the 18th century cooking with so many Indian, Thai, Moroccan and Ethiopian spices. I love the flavor combinations one can make from cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, saffron, cayenne, chili powder, star anise, fenugreek seed, dried fenugreek leaves, pink peppercorns, white pepper, (I don't like green peppercorns much), and a bunch more. I keep my own blends of masalas on my shelfs depending on what I am cooking ie. fish, meat, vegetarian. I love the spice blends of Paul Prudhomme as well from New Orleans. The ability to make a blend of spices that feature the flavor of the spice, while bringing out the essence of the food being cooked and giving just enough heat to make you smile. Asian countries from the Thailand and Korean areas are more likely to use fresh spices like coriander leaves and fresh chilies, which give a much different type of spice which I love as well.
If you haven't made stock before, you are missing out on a true foundation of cuisine. It's called different things in different cuisines and it is made different ways as well. Of course the French version (which is an obvious favorite) is complicated with roasting bones, or not roasting bones and then the same for the vegetables and then a long process of slow simmering and skimming. This liquid can be used to make sauces, soups, braised dishes and a multitude of other creations. In Italy it is known a brodo or broth, which incorporates meat along with the bones for a potentially more flavorful but less viscous liquid as the meat ratio requires more water and not all of the marrow is always exuded from the bones. A difference with many Asian cuisines is that they use water to make many of their soups and sauces, but if one pays attention, they require bone in meats and the soup or source is cooked for a long time and is in essence creating a stock or broth in the process.
This may seem out of place with this list of essential ingredients for any pantry, but this is my all time favorite food item at the moment, I eat it raw and also incorporate it into many dishes. I used to believe it should be only appreciated in its essential form, but now that I have played around with it a bit, I love to cook it into simple flash cooked saute dishes. This is a fresh milk mozzarella that I first tried when I took a Taste of Italy class at the Culinary Institute of America a few years ago. It is ridiculously good, it is only produced in Italy and must be flown in the next day to preserve its freshness as it will sour within a few days. The sites usually say seven days, but seven days is too long. It is in fresh mozzarella with cream in the middle mixed with curd. I recently found a version imported by The Bedford Cheese Shop that has black truffles in the center, how can that not be good?
Friday, September 28, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
It usually takes a lot for an author to really impress me with their writing. Many people often just put words to paper by "throwing up" what is in their brain. This style of writing is not all that exciting to me, as it doesn't relate to reality quite often because in order to relate to your audience the writer needs to find a common ground with the reader. So in comes Warren Belasco (you know that guy I talked about a few days ago, if you forget go back and look) to conduct a discussion with two of my graduate classes and then he went through a lecture on his current book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food for an audience at the Metropolitan University at Boston University.
The main premise of the book is, will we, or will we not run out of food someday? To portray this idea he uses the Thomas Malthus’ Malthusian theory, Marquis de Condorcet’s cornucopian theory and William Godwin’s neosocialist theory, which he uses to address the “future” concepts of food scarcity and abundance from the past two-hundred years.
You may say, thats all fine-and good, but who the hell are those people, well that is not so much important as their theories are. The Malthusians look into the future and see that, man we are all going to run out of food one day, we better change the way we eat, this meat stuff uses up too much grain that we could all be eating so lets change this now. The Cornucopians say that everything is just fine, all we have to do is just grow more food, if we can't grow it here, let's irrigate the desert (see the irrigation of Los Angeles, CA) or let's grow food on the moon. The neosocialists look toward the reeducation of the population with an equal distribution of the food between the haves and the have-nots (see socialism).
The first part of the book is a historical discovery of what the people who follow these theories thought would happens to the world. The Malthusians thought that we would all become vegetarians, referencing the "coolie" diet of countries like India, China and other Asian countries. The Cornucopians said, well ya know all we have to do is grow more food, but ya know our women are getting tired of cooking, so how about meal in a pill? The neosocialists, well do you believe in birth control?
Part two is an investigation of popular media. This was my favorite part of the whole book. Do any of you remember reading The Time Machine by HG Wells, or even seeing the movie? You had the happy peaceful people on the surface of the Earth with a prosperous vegetable sustenance which required little or no work and they did not question a single part of their lives, they were fit, beautiful and docile.... and to the under dwellers, oooo so tasty, as the opposite extreme was that the mutants under the surface of the Earth were cannibals that at the docile humans on the surface. What's the point of this you ask? Extremes, one should not live under extremes, as per this story (I'm not saying I support this or not, and neither does Dr. Belasco). Other stories include, Food of the Gods, War of the Worlds, Soylent Green, 1984. Many of these feature humans eating synthetic food (Soylent Green, well some of it was recycled people) or sludge, (remember that part in The Matrix? The Matrix is what is known as a dystopian future, with crappy food, well not for the machines, we are their food.)
Part three is about three different looks on the most popular look on food now, which is the Cornucopian outlook. Part one is the "classical" outlook, everything will be okay if we just grow more food, here, there, in space, on Mars, hell can't we just grow food anywhere if we work harder? The "modernist" version is all about using science. This involves a bit of Malthusian though, which means, you know we can grow it anywhere but it may not grow all that well here which means people will starve as it will run out, so instead lets chemically enhance the ground, splice this gene with that gene and this corn field which once fed one community now feeds three communities, year round. Then eventually this organic food becomes synthetic and we grow synthetic food stuffs and the food we once knew as food doesn't matter and science is the only way.
The third way is recombinant which is a joint venture between the two, lets use science to gorw more food, but make it seem organic (see the future of Moosewoods). Funny enough, Walt Disney World plays heavily into this chapter. If any of you have ever been to EPCOT in the past, you would recall The Land Pavillion with it's Listen to the Land ride, along with GM's Horizon ride and then The Living Seas, Sea Base Alpha under water community. You could've also gone over to Future World at the Magic Kingdom and seen the Carousel of Progress. What do all of these utopian rides have in common at Disney? They have all been removed, hrm suppose dystopian culture is more popular now (The Matrix, Land of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Children of Men, Running Man, Escape from New York, Escape From LA. Remake of War of the Worlds, Battlefield Earth, Minority Report, I could go on for awhile with this).
So where does this leave us now? I say I'm happy with the way I am, but Warren Belasco would agree with me because he states that so many of us in our culture think we are doing well, but others in the world are not. This brings up many thoughts on how we should consider our "space" her on Earth. Are we here to help the world prosper, or just fend for ourselves. I myself do not have the answer here for you, neither does Dr. Belasco. He gives you the information for you to process and come up with your own conclusion which is what I propose you all do. Pick up Meals to Come: A History of Meals to Come and I promise you won't be sorry.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
People often ask me what my favorite chef knife is and what criteria they should use in looking for a knife. As a professional, some of us have that one trusty knife that we got at the beginning of our career and feel that that is the only knife that they will ever need. I on the other hand have probably owned at least five full-size chef knives in my career until I decided on the one I use the most now. I actually keep two now, as I feel each has its own purpose. I could go into a whole list of knives for you, but that would make my already long posts quite a bit longer, so I will concentrate on just the regular chef knife.
Before I talk brands, let's talk about what one should look for in a knife. The first thing to consider is where are you going to be using this, at home or in a professional kitchen. Although there are those that want professional quality, it is not always necessary to pay $300 for a knife you are going to use at home. Most people at home or professional will want to seek out a hand forged high-carbon stainless steel blade which holds its sharpness quite well and is pretty durable. Another option is high-carbon steel (not stainless) which is what many Japanese high-end knives are made out of. These knives are usually folded the way Japanese swords were once made for samurai. Many times the blade is so hard though, that if dropped, treated poorly (Ie, chopping bones) the blade can crack. If not dried after use and oiled, the blade may rust as well, so these knives take a professional hand. Another material that has become slightly popular is ceramic, these share the same issues as the folded steel Japanese knives, but are even more fragile but hold a sharp blade even longer.
Next you will want to make sure that you get a proper handle, plastic, rubber, stainless steel or treated wood are good. Non-treated wood is not as good as it can absorb water and crack or mold. When looking at the handle, you want to make sure that the blade goes all the way through the handle, or as many call it a "full tang." This is to balance the knife and give it durability. Blade size is important as well, and the only way you are going to figure out what you like for size is by putting a few knives in your hands and maybe even chopping something if the store lets you. If a store doesn't let you hold the knife, they shouldn't get to hold your cash. I prefer a large 12 inch blade, as I have large hands, some others may prefer a 10 inch, 8 inch or 6 inch blade. Don't go smaller, those 5 inch blades are just to have a cute knife.
Those of you at home will probably want to send your knives out to be sharpened by a local knife shop or culinary store. Make sure they use a whet stone or an oil stone and that they do not grind their knives. Grinding will shorten the life of your knives as it takes a larger amount of metal off with each sharpening. The best way though is to buy your own whet stone, have the store teach you how to use it and then you know your knives are being cared for.
So here is a list of knives I have run into and like for different reasons. As for pricing, these estimates are for their regular, no frills lines. Many of these companies offer funky handle designs and other frills, that frankly are for aesthetics and to make more money off of you.
This is a German manufacturer and one of the most popular and best knives on the market. A ten inch blade will run you about $100 depending on where you shop. These are the knives given in the Culinary Institute of America knife kit.
Another popular knife, but for some reason I don't like them as much. They just don't seem to hold a blade as long as the Wustof, but they are about $5-10 cheaper usually. This is a German company as well.
A very popular trendy knife made in Japan. However it is not the folded steel as many think, it is stainless steel. They hold a sharp blade pretty well, but the handle which is metal can be difficult to get used to. These run about $130 for a ten inch blade.
Well the French do make a chef knife, and of what I have ever seen this is the only one I like. I used to use their slicer. It is a good quality knife, that will run you about $80.00. Id say they are on par with Henckels.
A pretty popular knives amongst those in the know in professional kitchens. They come in a variety of steels, but the stainless steel runs about $150-$170 depending on where you shop. This knife stays incredibly sharp and supposedly is well worth the price from what I have seen in tests.
Alright, well I'm putting it on here because many people tell me they like these knives. They are made in Australia and everyone's darling Rachael Ray is there spokes person, and these are the knives you see here using on her show. I'm guessing these aren't too popular in professional kitchens, and I'm not too sure how I would react to seeing one in a professional kitchen either. They seem to be pushing a professional line now though (without that god awful orange handle) with metal handles which retail between $100-$ 30 depending on where you look.
A good quality ceramic knife, stays incredibly sharp, however it is fragile as noted before. I've broken a few pairing knives from them and have since switched to my current knives. Six inch is as high as they go and it retails for about $90.00. There top of the line extra durable knife with an extra long lasting sharpness still at six inches is $300.
My last selection is the knife that I use. It is a Japanese made knife, which is made by the mentioned folding of the carbon-steel to make the blade super hard which makes it sharp as well. This blade is also super thin, which makes it not a good knife to use for chopping big items like bones and the sort (I use a Wuhstof for those purposes). These are continuously rated the best knives on the market. I hate to admit this, but my chef knife cost me about $400 with a discount, meaning you'll probably pay about $450 for this knife at home. Most home cooks will never need a knife like this, and many chefs either. This knife requires a lot of care, but this care will be rewarded by how amazing this knife is.
So I hope that helps a few people out with their knife choices. The same qualities go for any of the other types of knives made by these companies, but obviously the prices will be different. If there is anything I can do to help anyone in the choice of their knives in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have sort of an obsession with kitchen knives.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
French cuisine has many masters from the past and present. The one that comes to most people's minds quite readily is Georges Auguste Escoffier, whom most people simply know as Escoffier. Escoffier was the most recent simplifier and codifier of haute cuisine as most of us know it today. Although some have updated dishes and sauces with their own style, especially those whom were students of Fernand Point like Paul Bocuse during the latest Nouvelle cuisine craze. Just as a side note, the term "nouvelle cuisine" has been used since the Middle Ages to describe the cuisines of Taillivent, La Varenne, Careme and even Escoffier.
As the cooking of Escoffier and study of his life have been a great intrigue to myself over the last decade, I thought I would share with you a list and description of many of the books that he wrote himself as-well-as those which were written about him or include a good tidbit or two on his illustrious life. I also own a couple original news paper clippings from the illustrious New York Times that featured his visits the New York City, but those are a bit harder to share online. Most of these books are pretty available, with a few that have gone out of reprint recently which means they will eventually be going up in value, so grab them now if you can.
The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery ("Le Guide Culinaire")
Most often known as "Le Guide Culinaire" by professional chefs, this was the latest and best translated version first published in 1979. However it is based upon the fourth printing of "Le Guide Culinaire" which was published in 1921. This was the first full translation of the work, which contains over 5,000 recipes of the haute cuisine repertoire. The writing is very straight forward and makes large assumptions of the reader's cooking skill, that is to say extremely skilled and knowledgeable.
The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery
This was a prior translation by previous authors of "Le Guide Culinaire". It is missing many of the recipes of the original text, but it is still a great addition to a collection for comparison and historical reference.
I own a second edition of the original and a first edition of the English translation which was printed in 1965, the original French edition was printed in 1934 which was the year that Escoffier died as well. This version was intended for the home cook or house-wife. The recipes are only slightly more explained, with the truly skilled recipes removed. Assumptions of skill are still made as back in 1934 especially in France, many home cooks still had these skills. The latest edition is out of print, but don't get sucked into paying the 134.00 people are asking for. The link above is for about five dollars.
Escoffier's Basic Elements of Fine Cookery, Escoffier's Cook Book of Desserts, Sweets, and Ices
Both of these interesting finds are out of print and can be hard to find for some. Fairly inexpensive, these books were English translations of small sections of "le Guide Culinaire". There are various publication versions for the book, all exactly the same. They are both quite small, but not pocket sized, they are reference sized however, lending them to be along the line of le Repertoire de la Cuisine.
The Illustrated Escoffier
Another interesting find that was printed back in 1987. It was edited by the same authors that translated "le Guide Culinaire", as such you have two experts who help to translate the recipes to the home cook. The recipes are limited, and most could be easily be done in a home kitchen today. The pictures to me are the best part and to just see these recipes in a modern view as well is priceless in my opinion. Well there is a price, most used dealers sell it for under three dollars, which is probably less than the shipping cost.
The World of Escoffier
A great book by Timothy Shaw, published in 1994. Not only is this a great biography of Escoffier, it is an easy read, includes some great photographs and includes menus and photos of original recipes from Escoffier's life.
Escoffier :The King of Chefs
An amazingly well written piece of academic research printed last year. The book could be a heavy read for some, but it is extremely well researched and includes proper notes throughout as well as a great bibliography. If you really want to know about his life, you need to buy this book. A light read at 273 pages, don't complain I read this much for a couple classes each week and then have to write papers using them as reference. Now go buy this book... I'm not biased at all.
Auguste Escoffier: Memories of My Life
This is a translation of an autobiography written in 1919. This version was translated by his granddaughter in-law Laurence Escoffier. There is a wealth of information in here, it also includes photos of original hand written documents, photos, menus (some full-color). It portrays his trips to the United States, his thoughts on foodservice and wine service, his time imprisoned during his time in the military and just everything you wish you could've heard form his lips. This edition was translated in 1997.
There have been a few other books written on Escoffier, they really aren't worth mentioning as they include many inaccuracies and seem to be poorly researched. Some other books worth mentioning that offer some items about Escoffier's life are Accounting for Taste (The Triumph of French Cuisine) by Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson and French Gastronomy by Jean-Robert Pitte. Accounting for Taste is a personal favorite on French cuisine. Hope I fed some of you some good future reading and you ever do get to read any of them, let me know how they feed your interest.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Oh my goodness, what didn't I eat yesterday? I started the day off at the Phantom Gourmet Festival. As I had VIP tickets I went the 30 minutes early to hopefully get a bit more time to walk about and try the fresh food. Low and behold, my VIP ticket got me in with everyone else at the same time. The place was jam-packed and they must of had so many people that perhaps the streets were getting backed up, it really wasn't that much of a big deal though. There were A LOT of people there as the event sold-out, which was amusing to hear one of the hosts saying "Thanks for selling us out", which to me sounded like "you are all sell-outs" so it was sorta funny.
There was quite a selection of things to try. As I noted in the prior post about the event there were about 50 Phantom favorites which are posted in the "purple book" or Phantom Gourmet dining guide. Most of the food leaned toward the fast-food realm. Spike's had great hotdogs, Ivy had some awesome stuffed risotto balls, Summer Shack had their shrimp boil which is so ridiculously good. Fireflys was offering excellent pulled pork, the wings from Kowloon, while a favorite of the Phantom, they were not mine, I may chock it up to old fryer oil though as they were turning out a lot of these things in a short amount of time. I could of done without the healthy chicken option from KnowFat, but it is good to know there is a healthy fast food location around the block from me. The chili from Chili Station (couldn't find a site), was not tasty, but I had probably the best calamari ever from Finz Seafood & Grill, I would certainly go here for dinner. Cabot Creamery was there, I don't think I have to tell you what they offered. The Sausage Guy right near Fenway park was another favorite, while I had to wonder why Panera Bread, Fudruckers, Dunkin Doughnuts and even Cabot were there. Don't we all know what these places serve already?
For desserts Wholly Canoli had these ice cream things that were dipped in chocolate and what was probably crushed cannoli shell, very tasty. Beantown Cupcakes were awesome and even the strange ice cream stuffed cupcakes from Trani were pretty good. I think my favorite dessert item was the whoppie pies from Wicked Whoopie Pies. There were some awesome doughnuts from Kanes Doughnuts (the only one I couldn't find an actual website for).
There was some great entertainment at the bars along the street as well. At the Avalon there was a Sinatra impersonator, well he sang Sinatra songs, this guy certainly looked like Sinatra as much as I do. They had dueling pianos playing at Jake Ivory's and there was an Elvis party at Axis. The theme at most of the places changed at 1pm though as the Patriot game came on, I for one don't watch sports so this was not all that exciting.
The event is certainly fun, the food was good. I will admit it was pretty much food which I don't usually eat, but at times it is good to have this stuff. I certainly ate a lot of it and had a good time. I slipped a few Guinness in there as well at a couple bars along the walk of the event. My suggestion for anyone going next year is to buy your tickets early at $40.00 and don't bother with the VIP tickets as the VIP party, was just as packed as all of the other locations and it was a football fest as well. Also if you can get there early, do so as many of the locations started to run out of food by 2pm and the event is supposed to go until 4pm.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I'm taking the night off from blogging. I spent the day at the Phantom Gourmet festival and then went to Cragie Street Bistro for dinner and I am a bit worn out. I think I am going to have a Pastis with some sparkling water and goto bed. I'll let everyone in on my day tomorrow sometime, have a good one!!!
Chef Christopher Allen Tanner
Posted by Christopher Allen Tanner at 10:26 PM
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I love food symbolism movies. My first "foodie" movie was watching Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe. I must of watched it when I was in high school, all I ever recall is the one scene with the French foodie eating the pressed duck, it was so gross, but so enticing at the same time. I wanted to be him eating the pressed duck. This is why I think these food movies get us to appreciate food, they put many people into a realm of food that many people would normally never be part of. So let's look at a few food movies and you decide whether or not they have been important to the the food realm.
Babettes Feast - If you never watch any other food movie, you need to watch this one. Brings the appreciation of haute cuisine to another level, I limit my words for the excellence of this movie.
Mostly Martha is probably one of my favorite movies ever. An obsessive chef with a propensity for over exaggerated personality will make you love her so much more when she tries to care for her orphaned niece and also try to date a male dominate Italian. Yup, I wish I lived in this type of world. Oh wait I like an Italian chick, she's just a bit more amicable. BTW No Reservations was a rip off of this movie.
Big Night is a funny movie, I mean what other food culture would demand pasta with risotto other than in American abundance. Can I have more starch with my starch please. The story is about a family opening a restaurant, no more info for you, watch it yourself.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover - This is a movie for the sick puppy in all of us. As much as it is about, let's just say cannibalism is the part of this movie that shocks us all, watch it to find out.
Vatel1671, with war brewing with Holland, a penniless prince invites Louis XIV to three days of festivities at a chateau in Chantilly
the movie originates about a great chef named François Vatel
Spanglish, if only I didn't know that Thomas Keller was involved with this movie. There are some freaking AWESOME food moments int he beginning of this movie, but like CHEF!, this movie falls into the overly emotional realm.
When we have movies like Ratatoullie emerging there must be a love for the culinary craft in the film industry. I think in the future we will have more of these movies (Just don't give me another "Waiting"), we just have to make sure more of us "foodie" types support them and tell the industry what we like so we don't end up with reality show movies.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I have to give an open opinion on chef television shows. We are inundated with reality shows right now featuring chefs. Right now they include, Top Chef, Hells Kitchen, The Next Food Network Star, Cooking Under Fire (most people miss this one as it is a PBS show). My issue is that we have all missed out on a large amount of sit-com based chef shows and I don't understand why. I'm hoping you all can give me some incite. I'm going to list the shows here and give you my synopsis of each one an hope that maybe I can get some feed back. I wrote a paper on this as well a couple years ago for an English class, maybe there is a thesis topic hidden in here somewhere.
CHEF! - An English BBC show, lasted three seasons, if you watch it from season to season, one can tell that they had comments and made VAST changes, and after the third season which obviously had a large budget failed, one has to think is simple better?
EMERIL - Voted as a poorly written show, but honestly who wants to watch a fake show about Emeril making his real show, but not really, and he has family, but not really cause it isn't his and he is really a chef, but playing a fake chef... I'm confused, are you?
Kitchen Confidential - A ridiculously good show release in the Fall of 2005, but it was at the same time that there was a major controversy in Iraq. I'm sure many chefs tried to watch this Anthony Bourdain inspired show when it aired, but it was only for 4 weeks, and duh, um you change the time and we get annoyed. It's not the show it is the way you market it. They taped a full season and released it on DVD and wow, it is good.
These are only a few of the examples of chef shows that have aired, but these were the notable ones. Why do they fail? I wish I knew but the answer is a mystery still. I tend to think it comes from pretty faces are not reality in the industry. We have our moments, but most of us are not "hot." You try siting in a 110 degree kitchen for 12 hours a day 6-7 days a week and see how your complexion and body survives. SMaybe we chefs take issue with the "model" faces, but also I think the public takes issue with reality. I don't think the public wants to know about the people who make their food. These shows have all shown the "bad" side of cooking especially in fine dining and seeing this can be bad for our public.
You may have differing opinions, but I enjoyed these sit-coms, but I know why they didn't work. These reality shows though are also promoting bad stereotypes. Shall we find a way to make chefs proliferate on tv? Then I will have to audition for Top Chef.
I'm a Top Chef fan and considering auditioning, but still look at the members of this show and the others seeing that there are so many that are on these shows not for culinary prowess but for "air time." I would love to go on this show and cook to my hearts content. So maybe this message has given me a sort of inspiration to announce my plan to audition for Top Chef's next season. Maybe someday when I become famous though (the notion hurts my stomach) I will make my own sitcom.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I'm so excited for next week. One of my favorite food authors is going to be conducting a session at Boston University next week. Warren Belasco PhD is a professor of American Studies at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He recently published a book entitled Meals To Come: The History of the Future of Food. I feel he is a strong supporter of the anti-McDonaldization of the word (IE, lets get the same dishes wherever we go in the world).
Companies like McDonalds disgust me, I hate myself for falling for such an easy target, but it could just as easily be Burger King, Wendy's, Bennigans (Holy cow they make a bad Monti Cristo sandwich), Applebees, etc. They move into areas that have local restaurants that have a local identity and then they move in and people see the shiny lights and the recognizable name and saw ooooo I've always wanted to try their food, and because they are consistent (some would argue consistently bad) people return for their low grade over cooked meats, unseasoned starches and chemically sprayed vegetables.
What is sad is that these places are wining the battle, we consistently see the "consistants" creep into all markets of the world. McD's brags of its presence in China and Russia where the McD meal is shoved in their face as the "right way to be." Let me tell you people, I love America, I love Capitalism, but I do not love our main stream food culture. But low-and-behold, even the McD's in France are doing well. What is this world coming to, let's just homogenize the world and all eat the same thing, that should be fun.
I for one vow that I will never eat in a corporate chain restaurant ever again. I do not appreciate what they have done to the American food realm, let alone what they are now doing to the international market. I love that we have men like Dr. Belasco addressing these issues and if any of you have time and are in the area of Boston please come and watch his presentation next Wednesday.
Click here for a great article on Dr. Belasco.
He is also the author of the following books, which are all favorites of mine.
by Warren James Belasco - Technology - 2006 - 327 pages
by Warren James Belasco - Travel - 1997 - 224 pages
In Americans on the Road, Warren James Belasco uses travel magazines, trade journals,
and diaries to "look at what Americans actually did with their cars...
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
For those of you who do not know my current situation, I am currently a graduate student at Boston University working on a Masters of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy. All of us have a different approach to food, mine comes as a chef and others can come from liberal arts, hobby seekers or other realms. In many of the classes we take turns making food for the class. Tomorrow is my History of Agriculture class and I volunteered to make food for this week.
So for my food contribution I decided to take some inspiration from my trip to the North End this past weekend. I always keep to my French roots but like to add different touches. In this case I decided to make a chicken galantine, I promoted Italy by making a force meat flavored with black truffle oil, fennel and diced soppressata garnish and a good amount of Italian fresh herbs.
So here is the recipe for my Italian Truffled Chicken Galantine: (Not an amateur recipe)
1 1/2 fl oz Grappa
1 tsp mixed Italian fresh herbs (ex. marjarom, basil, oregano)
3 oz. flour
3/4 oz. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp. truffle oil
8 fl. oz. heavy cream, heated just below simmer
1 3lb. chicken deboned, skin left intact
8 oz. pork butt, cubed
6 oz. fat back
6 fl. oz. Grappa
4 oz. soppresatta, small dice
4 oz. fennel bulb, small dice, blanched
Chicken stock, as needed
1. Mix all the ingredients for the panada except the cream.
2. Once the cream has been heated, temper the egg mixture with the cream. Place into small pot and continuously mix until very think with whisk. Remove from heat and chill.
3. Set up meat grinder with chilled parts, using fine plate (1/8 in.). Grind chicken thigh meat, pork butt, and fat back. Place ground meats into refrigerator until needed.
4. Butterfly chicken breasts and then pound lightly to an 1/8 inch thickness. Place chicken breasts on a sheet tray and liberally sprinkle grappa over then then place into refrigerator to chill to marinate for 30 minutes.
5. Mix soppresatta and fennel into forcemeat, then place reserved chicken skin on large piece of cheese cloth, then layer breast on top of skin. Place enough forcemeat on top of breast so as to to be able fully roll galatine so that the breast and skin ends meet.
6. Roll the galantine tightly in the cheesecloth and secure tightly the ends with butchers twine.
7. Poach the galantine in preheated stock at 170 degrees as to completly cover when inserted into vessel. Cook until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached.
8. Remove galantine from poaching liquid to a separate container and cover with poaching liquid. Allow to rest over night or for at least 12 hours.
9. To serve, remove from liquid and wrapping and slice to desired thickness and serve with an appropriate salad and sauce.
Suggested salad: well the one I made tonight... Braised broccoli rabe with anchovies, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, olive oil and proper seasoning.
Suggested sauce: Sundried tomato mayonnaise with anchovies
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The festival will feature a sampling of fifty of The Phantom's favorite foods. We aren't talking fine-dining here folks, The Phantom's favorite food is pizza, but he/she does like the fine-dining stuff as well, but that is not what this event is about. It's about having a good time with friends, trying some really good nibbles like Saugus wings from Kowloon, burritos from Boloco, cheese from Cabot Creamery, pizza from Sal's Pizza, Shrimp Boil from Jasper White's Summer Shack, Lobsta Mac and Cheese from The Loft, pulled pork sandwiches from Firefly's, and a ridiculous amount of others. So much for my diet again.
There will be a bunch of parties going on inside the venues along Landsdowne and Ipswisch streets and you should dress to impress in your favorite purple outfit as there will be prizes for the best Phantom outfit at certain venues. As well the first 800 Phans (isn't that cute) to show up wearing purple (The Phantom's favorite color) will receive a $5.00 Phantom Gourmet Gift Card.
Cost of attendance is $40.00. YOU MUST BUY TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME. Many of the restaurants have sold out of their share of tickets and online they seem to be running low as the $100.00 VIP tickets are sold out. They do still have $200 Very Important Phan Tickets. The entire $200 to benefit the Fund for Boston Neighborhoods! Includes 10AM special early entry gate near Gold's Gym on Lansdown St. and admission to Ernie Boch Jr's Party at The Quarter, with catered food from the street plus music by James Montgomery.
EVENT IS 21 AND UP ONLY!!! Sunday Spetmeber 23 from 11:00am-4:00pm
For more information and to order tickets to the event CLICK HERE
For more information on The Phantom Gourmet Click Here
Monday, September 17, 2007
As mentioned the other day, I wanted to talk about my dining experience on Saturday night at Neptune in Boston's North End at 64 Salem st. I had heard many great things about the restaurant, particularly about their oyster selection. They are known for their seafood dishes as well and an eclectic wine selection.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Yesterday was a great day walking through the Northend in Boston. For those of you who do not know, the North End is Boston's version of "little Italy". I signed up for a tour through Boston University led by Christine Merlo. Other than a little rain, one couldn't ask for a better day. Luckily for me one of the couples on the tour allowed me to use one of their umbrellas as well, so the rain ended up not being a problem at all.
The tour was about three hours of walking and an about another hour spent having lunch. Our first stop on the tour was probably my favorite which was the Salumeria Italiana. Not only did they have high quality imported Italian dry goods, but they also had an awesome deli counter selling many different salumi and cheeses. I was particularly excited to find out that they bring in fresh boratta every Friday (fresh mozzarella with cream inside) from Italy and they carry bresaula (air-dried beef) two of my favorite Italian ingredients which are very hard to find.
Our next stop was to Ernesto's Pizzeria, hands down the best pizza I have had in Boston, probably the best I have had out of New York City. I will be getting pizza here again soon. Around the corner we stopped at Dairy Fresh Candies. They had a large variety of homemade candies as well as bulk bags of many of the popular "penny" candies (is the term penny candy even valid anymore?). I broke down and had to get some dark chocolate covered pretzels and some candied walnuts. We then stopped by The Wine Bottega which was a small boutique wine shop with many eclectic wines, we got to try a red from Sicily, but for the life of me I can't recall the grap.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Wow, I had a big day... I went through Boston's North End and I have a lot of feelings from the day that I have to digest. I am a digester of cultures and I have to really give myself a day to think about the day I had there. I really need an extra day to think about what I was privy to and give you the proper thoughts from my day. Until then please enjoy this thought I agreed with from Ferdinand Metz , President emeritus of the CIA.
A PERSPECTIVE ON WOMEN CHEFS
In every culture, women as mothers and nurturers have played a pivotal role in turning basic ingredients into palatable if not delicious and nutritious meals. While men hunted and fished, women cultivating food and developed knowledge, techniques and unique methods of preparation and preservation while providing nourishment for the entire family.
Through the centuries women were responsible for cooking at home, while men became the dominant players in the professional culinary field. They entered it by first being assigned to feed their fellow soldiers, then honing their craft and eventually claiming cooking as their profession. The profession was regulated by guilds from which women were excluded since, by law, they could not own property or control finances and therefore could not inherit or purchase a position within the guild.
With men being so prominent in the culinary field and establishing hierarchies, it is easy to forget that mothers and grandmothers were their first teachers. Most of us keenly observed and even participated as children in our mothers' food preparations. Our contemporary open kitchen concepts speak of our longing for the sense of community among the women in the kitchen while they prepared feasts. We remember the great dishes that our grandmothers or mothers put on the family table, culinary delights that shaped our palates and evoked memories of comfort foods, family gatherings and just plain good times. Even if women were not the first authors of cookbooks as most were not educated to read or write, they became prolific writers once they acquired those skills. Recipes that were formerly passed down verbally from generation to generation, were collected in writing by women for women Some of the most well-known cooking schools in the world were initiated if not founded by women: among them Le Cordon Bleu cooking classes and The Culinary Institute of America.
Today, as women strive to have both professional careers and a family, we are at a turning point as we see more and more women entering culinary schools and ultimately the foodservice industry. We all share the obligation to create and maintain an environment that allows women chefs to pursue their dreams of doing what they truly love. This process must be based on mutual respect and a deeply rooted belief that the promotion of women in the culinary profession is not only the right thing, but the only thing to do.
I congratulate all those women and men who have had the vision and courage to effect fundamental changes in the stereotypical perception of women's roles. They are the pioneers and leaders, who pave the way for future generations We are entering a new era.
World Association of Chefs' Societie
Friday, September 14, 2007
The Butcher Shop in Boston is one of Barbara Lynch's smaller project restaurants which features French and Italian styles of cookery. For those of you unfamiliar with Barbara Lynch, she is of No. 9 Park fame. In addition to these restaurants she also owns B&G Oysters LTD., Plum Produce, as-well-as a specialty bookstore named Stir. The chef de cuisine for The Butcher Shop is Greg Reeves, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts..
The Butcher Shop is located at 552 Tremont st. in Boston in the historic South End of Boston. The restaurant accepts reservations, but the reservations are limited only to groups of six or more. Much of the reason behind this limited reservation policy is the size of the restaurant. Seating is limited to a handful of high-top table, perhaps six or maybe a couple more, that seat four or more when pushed together. The black soap-stone bar is a great place to sit as well, extremely comfortable and service is just as comfortable at a table or at the bar. Late night drinkers can also stand around the large butcher table with their drinks. There is no dress code as the restaurant is very informal, with the feeling of a small brassarie.
The dining room is decorated to feel like an actual butcher shop, which it actually is during the day toward the back of the dining room. The room is somewhat narrow, but spacious enough for people to walk back and forth as needed. The outside wall is a wall of windows which traverse the length of the wall as-well-as its height which matches the high ceiling of the room. The other walls are chalk-boards which are used for the butcher in back and behind the bar which illustrates new wine specials. The far back wall is a bank of reach-in coolers that hold the wares of the on-site butcher. Service is impeccable no matter where you sit or what time of day you go. The servers all know the menu well and know the wine list just as well. They can help with suggestions and are more than happy to assist the diner with any questions without making you feel inferior.
The menu which changes daily features many classical French items such as charcuterie, steak tartare, Antipasti della Casa, home-made hot dog and other traditional items. The rest of the menu changes often and features seasonal ingredients. One of the many nights I have dined there they featured an heirloom tomato salad with shaved onions and parmigiano reggiano which is hard to go wrong with, I have also had a salad of thin white French asparagus dressed with truffle oil and spring onions which was wonderful. I have probably had their charcuterie at least half a dozen times and each time it is completely different and each time it is one of the best I have ever had.
The steak tartare is made very traditionally and served with some of the best toasted brioche I have ever had. The only dish I have had here that I was not one hundred percent satisfied with was the cassoulet. I was excited to see that it was made with the traditional Tarbais beans and the items added to it were appropriate, but the flavors were not melded from the meats and beans and the beans were a bit under-done. Someday I'll find a restaurant who gets that dish correct. I would have to say that any choice off the menu normally is without a doubt made close to perfection.
The wine list is extremely eclectic with many choices that you won't find at other restaurants or even in your local wine shop. Buying power from the multiple restaurants surely helps the wine directors for Barbaba Lynch's restaurants. In addition the restaurant's cheese program is increadible. They feature a large selection of cheeses to choose from and the selection changes often as to what is available. Most of their cheese comes from Formaggio Kitchen which is one of the top purveyors of cheese in the country.
During the day there is a full-service butcher available on premise. Meats that I have observed have been strip loin, rib-eye, hanger steak, foie gras, rabbit and others. In addition they sell many different in-house made charcuterie items such as mortadella, soppresatta, rillettes, terrine and many other items by the lb. or less or even more if desired. They also offer some pre-cooked items, depending on the season. In addition they sell many specialty items such as quail eggs and other items. You can also pick up fresh baked bread here daily in addition to many pickled items, oils and vinegars. The butcher is very knowledgeable and can help you make any decisions on your purchases and can also make suggestions on what to do with items.
Lunch is available 11am - 3:30pm each day with a slightly smaller menu than at night.
Dinner is available sunday & monday from 4:30 pm - 10 pm. and available tuesday - saturday from 4:30 pm - 11 pm.
Brunch is available on Saturday & Sunday from 11am - 3:30pm
The Butcher is available Monday-Saturday from 11am - 8pm / Sunday until 5 pm.
Wine Bar open daily until 12am / Sunday and Monday until 11 pm.
Average meal price $40.00+/person including glass of wine
Address: 552 Tremont St. Boston, MA
Phone: tel: 617.423.4800
Valet parking available after 5pm for $16 per car.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
As I mentioned the upcoming show The Next Iron Chef during my post on Mario Batali, I thought I would share some more information on the show for those of you who have not read about it yet. The premise of the show is similar to the Who Wants to be the Next Food Network Star in that there are a number of contestants, eight to be exact who are in competition to be part of the Food Network. In this particular case however, they will become part of the show Iron Chef America.
The series will begin with Alton Brown traveling the country looking for the top ten chefs in the country to qualify as the next Iron Chef. The series will continue with the chefs showing the chairman why they should take the honor. One of the judges will be Andrew Knowlton, restaurant editor for Bon Appetit magazine.
The show will premiere on Sunday, October 7, at 9:00 p.m. EST.
The Chefs include:
Aaron Sanchez chef-owner of Paladar and Centrico both in NYC
Cooking style: Contemporary Mexican and Latin
Morou Outtara chef-owner of FarrahOlivia by Morou in Alexandria, VA
Cooking Style: Creative American
John Besh of August, Luke, The Besh Steakhouse at Harrah's, New Orleans; and La Provence, Lacombe, LA
Cooking Style: Contemporary Louisiana French
Traci Des Jardins Chef and co-owner of Jardiniere, chef-owner of Mijita, and managing chef of ACME Chophouse in San Francisco, CA
Cooking Style: French-California
Chris Cosentino chef of Incanto and co-owner of Boccalone Artisinal Meats in San Francisco, CA
Cooking Style: Peasant-style, rustic farm-driven Italian
Jill Davie chef de cuisine of Josie Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA
Cooking Style: California bistro/ American progressive
Michael Symon chef-owner of Lola and Lolita in Cleveland, OH
Cooking Style: Local, farm-driven, and sustainable
Gavin Kaysen chef de cuisine of El Bizcocho in San Diego, CA, he was also the U.S.A. representative for the Bocuse d'Or for 2007
Cooking Style: Fanatically seasonal French