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The WGF in Bangkok


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#31 Peter Green

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 12:41 AM

Alas, the WGF is timed so that it fills in dead space in the calendar, meaning that Scud'll be in school then (boarding in Canada this year). A pity, as I think the WGF is a great educational experience, in addition to being an excuse for wanton gluttony.

Hopefully, if I can get China squared away, I'll work out my feeding schedule for this.

I'm trying to see if I can extend the trip an extra week, which opens up a series of stomach expanding options - Penh, Vientiane, or just staying in BKK (I still need to get to Dosa King!)

Vientiane has a lot more eating, and a mot more shopping I need to do.
Penh may just be my favourite place to do nothing.
And if I just stay in BKK, I have a tailor to take care of the trousers.

Cheers,

Peter

You could always pop down for a few days from Japan! It's not that far. Otherwise you know I'm going to be gloating!

#32 orangeblossom

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 05:07 AM

Thanks for the heads up on the line-up of chefs for WGF8. I'm a regular partcipant at Singapore's WGS, and am planning to try to go to a couple of the WGF8 events, so your list will certainly come in useful for my research purposes!

Just my two-cents worth - I was at the Roman Fornell class when he was in town for WGS, and he was clearly very innovative, yet true in spirit to the claasical traditions. My favourite was a fantastic roast suckling pig paired with an inspired green apple sorbet. He also had fun with a dried fruits and foie gras mousse dish impersonating your typical yoghurt and breakfast muesli.

Anyway, hope to meet you at WGF8 :smile:
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#33 docsconz

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 05:30 AM

Two presenters that I would expect to be very, very interesting would be Susur Lee and Roberto Donna. Looks like it should be a great time.
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#34 Peter Green

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 08:35 AM

Thanks, Orange and Doc,

I'd missed Susur at the WGS last year, but he was getting some very good comments at the tables I was at. And Fornell had caught my eye from what I've been reading. Roberta looks good, too.....

Y'know, it's going to be the usual pain. There are only so many days, and so many events, and I know I'm going to have to miss one person. It'd be easy enough to say I'll miss Michael Ginor, but his dinners are always excellent.

I'm really in agony over the Russian. If he shows up with a bucket of Beluga, I'm going to be kicking myself like when I missed Vivalda's dinner because I'd already done his cooking class. He showed up pockets bulging with white truffles he'd brought with him.

Life is suffering.

#35 Peter Green

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 11:22 AM

Okay,

I think I can cover
- Patrizia di Benedetto from ByeByeBlues in Palermo (dinner)
- Suzanne Tracht from JAR in LA (cooking class/lunch)
- Michael Ginor (dinner)
- Romain Fornell from Caelis in Barcelona (lunch and dinner.....I'm very interested in him)
- Malahov Andrey Vladimirovich from the Pushkin in Moscow (dinner)
- The Gala (which'll be a bunch of them...I'm waiting on the line-up)
- Paul Wilson from the Botanical in Melbourne (lunch)
- Susur Lee from Toronto (Lunch and dinner)
- Roberta Dona from Galileo and others (dinner)

Now, the heartbreak is, I'm going to miss Douglas Rodrigues (unless I can talk them into having him do one of the two unspecified lunches) and Steven Snow from Fins, out of Sydney. I'm hoping they'll be cooking at the Gala, so I'll at least get a taste.

Russian Standard is running the bar, and the Italian Association of Sommeliers will run two classes (which I'll cover) so this should be a full week.

But I have a bad feelling I'll miss someone.

#36 Peter Green

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 05:33 AM

The latest update to the schedule just arrived!

- Malahov Andrey Vladimirovich from the Pushkin in Moscow is not coming. In his place they have Yuri Rozchov from Vogue Cafe (also Moscow) instead. I don't know anything yet about the place (has anyone on egullet eaten there?) but, as Russian Standard is still running the bar, I have high hopes.

- All of the other chefs are still on, and the schedule doesn't change too much. Two of the open slots have been filled: one by Katrina Kanetani from Pier Restaurant in Sydney, and the other by Nicole Krasinski from Rubicon in San Francisco. From what I've found on the net so far, Ms. Krasinski should run a fun class, and the same goes for Kanetani, who's got an excellent reputation.

- And I'm very, very happy to see Penfolds back with a "Super Tasting". I'm hoping Peter Gago comes back for this one again. The session they did back in 2003 made wine a lot more fun for me (and we snagged that extra bottle of Grange for our table at the Gala dinner later on.......)

- And they're going back to a start-up party! I just don't know the timing on it. I'm hoping it won't interfere with dinner, as the opening cocktail party used to make a great place to meet up with friends and plan out some of the week's tables.

- One item of interest, they're running the dinners in Biscotti, Madison, and Shintaro, only. I suspect this is to leave the Spice Market open for the non-WGF guests.

- Now, the only thing up in the air are two open slots in the afternoons, in case some more tastings can creep in. Of course, if those stay open, I may have some time to write........

More news as it happens.

#37 miladyinsanity

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 09:49 AM

I get excited when I see you post, Peter.

And I bet I'm not the only one.
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#38 Peter Green

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Posted 25 June 2007 - 10:50 AM

The WGF gets under my skin, and I have to look for ways to let off steam as I count down the days until September 9. In preparation I started rooting through my old cooking class notes, my travel notes, and my pantry to see what I could get my friends to endure.

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(I suppose I could post this under “Dinner” but the rules of that call for more immediacy, and I’m too darn lazy to get things up fast enough – no rude jokes, please).

First up was fried river weed from Luang Prabang (which I forgot to shoot). This gave people something to nibble on while they watched me make a fool of myself over the oven. I like the thickness to the weed, and the crusting of sesame and garlic. Everyone bites into it expecting nori, but what they get is quite “thicker” in the delivery.

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Sitting down to the table we started off with Geoff Lindsay’s take on a Mediterranean salad. This was from WGF7 last year. It’s effectively a Greek salad, but with watermelon added to the mix of olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers, imparting a sweetness and lightness that isn’t normally there. What I also enjoy in this is working the feta into a light, whisked fluffiness with the olive oil and capping the dish with this, rather than cubes of feta, which I can find too overpowering at times. What I don’t enjoy, and which Yoonhi doesn’t let me do, is make a jello of tomato water. (I tried it once, and Yoonhi told me what she’d do to me if I made that much of a mess again). Top it all with a drop or two of rose water to get that “Gulf Air toilet” smell, and you’re there.
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After this I reached back to 2003 and WGF4, when Mick Edwards from Nobu in London did his pineapple soup. I started the day before, enfusing a stock pot of squeezed citrus juices with caramelized pineapple and a selection of spices (cinnamon sticks, chilis, star anise, and whatever else looked good). You squeeze the whole thing out, boil the soup, and then top with two sheets of rice paper, between which you apply your aromatics – in this case cocoa and kaffir lime leaves. Pop the lid on the steamer, and the whole thing seals like a drum. Top with a dollop of ice cream and let the guests punch through.

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Then I went back to Susan Schafer in WGF7 and looked at her cooking with vinaigrettes, and moved from there to Tom Colicchio’s recipe for braising fish in a lemon vinagrette (Think Like A Chef – Sarah worked for Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern). I used a grouper, which works better for texture (and was the only fresh fish available) served with roasted red bell peppers and parsley for colour, and the oil in the braising fluid works really well with couscous which, which was all the rage last year at WGF7 as Fatema Hal (from Paris’ Mansouria) was also cooking.

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This then led, in turn, to the main.

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I started off with an Aussie tenderloin, rolled in black pepper, and grilled over low heat while I messed with the other bits.

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A local item I like to play with is fuqa, or desert truffles. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a few kilos of these every other year or so (the weather has been difficult), and then Yoonhi’ll spend her weekend cleaning them with a paring knife. We’ve talked about these in the dessert truffle thread under Middle East & Africa, so there’re more details there. I’m lifting a process I’d tried already, inspired by the Four Seasons and Michael Ginor’s liberal use of foie gras in all things. Once the meat is resting, pan fry the foie, then cook the truffles in the “butter”. I cut the tenderloin into respectably thick steaks, and finish these in any remaining fat.

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I figured these two dishes had loaded up enough fat in everyone’s palates, so we trundled out a G&T sorbet I’d had on the go (details at ). There’ve been numerous fun ices and such at the Fests that I won’t try to attribute this to any particular event.


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The it was time to finish things. We called upon Alan Koh from WGF6 in 2005 for a green tea mousse – nice and velvety. And then we ended it all with Sam Mason’s basil meringues. For these I really needed egg white powder that I could reconstitute with an infusion of basil, but we had to make do with just really finely chopping the basil. The result tasted very good, but you were left with a slight chewiness that I’d have rather avoided.

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And at that point, with everything out of my system, I could relax. And try to figure out what I’d do with the pot full of carrots I forgot to cook.

#39 Peter Green

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 11:50 AM

The Russians Aren't Coming, The Russians Aren't Coming (with apologies to Norman Jewison and Carl Reiner).

The "final" schedule is out.

Given a lack of time for planning, the Russians are off. It's a pity, but it does allow me to catch Stephen Snow from Fins in Byron Bay.

It also means that it's not going to be shots of Russian Standard in the lobby in the late night. It sounds like Macallan'll take up the slack there, which is fine by me.

Things are looking interesting, and my schedule is pretty much down pat. There'll be a few full days of three events (or more), but I'll have enough time for a decent lunch on Sunday, and then there'll be the week after. I'll be able to catch all of the chefs at some point now, with the only exception being Doug Rodriguez. It's a pity, as I really enjoyed his class in 2003. Hopefully he'll be part of the Gala, so I'll catch a bit of what he has.

Wine is back, thank Heavens. The Italian Sommelier Association is going to do two classes (Friday and Saturday) which'll have me in a fine fettle, and the good Mr. Gago of Penfolds is back to do a vertical tasting of the Grange (and the note I have says they're releasing an '81 for this).

Only 168 working hours to go.

#40 Peter Green

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Posted 30 August 2007 - 10:00 PM

I’ve got the menus……..

At least for the dinners. Let’s take a look at what’s coming. I won’t go into all the details, as that would just spoil things, plus, this is Thailand. You should never take anything for granted.

My first dinner will be Patrizia di Benedetto from Sicily. I like the sound of the tuna fillet with a pistachio crust. There’s a lot of ricotta in the the other dishes, but I can work with that. And this’ll be in Biscotti, which is s great room when it has a buzz.

Michael Ginor’s foie gras dinner will keep me occupied on Tuesday in Shintaro. Partway through he’s doing a pork belly with a miso marinated foie gras, and earlier there’s a nori-salt cured foie gras with black truffle……I wonder if we’ll get hit up by the PETA people again?

Romain Fornell from Caelis in Barcelona will be Tuesday in Biscotti. His menu is fairly exclamatory, and may be the one that I’m looking forward to the most. His main will be a duckly with crispy foie gras and a reduced coffee jus. Now, as Pitak will be there from the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, and his signature dish is Ped Ob Kafe (coffee duck) I’ll be interested in seeing what develops in the kitchen.

Steven Snow is Wednesday. He’s known for his seafood from Byron Bay in Oz, and the menu reflects this with sashimi, soft shell crabs, king prawns, and Red Emperor (could that be renamed “Chairman Mao”?). I always like the Australian chefs, so this should be fun. I’ll try and get up at the bar in Shintaro for this.

Thursday’s the Gala, of course, and that’s an unknown for now. I should see if I can get in early for some shots of the setup.

Friday will be Susur Lee. His amuse sounds like fun – tomato water soup with lobster roll, and he’s working in Chiang Mai sausage into the menu later on. Shintaro will be a good spot for this.

And Saturday will see me back in Biscotti with Roberto Donna from the US. He’s opening with an octopus carpaccio that has my attention right away, and the white truffle risotto, will, I’m sure, be worth my while. And, again, I’m beginning to make a tradition of finishing at Biscotti, so this’ll be a good end to the week for me.

What am I missing? Douglas Rodriguez will be in Madison. His main will be an Argentine mixed grill, and he’ll also have a sampler of ceviche earlier on. It’ll be a good meal, but I felt that I should give Snow a try, as Doug was here in 2003.

Suzanne Tracht from Jar is in Madison. She’ll have her pot roast, but I’m hoping she’ll cover this during the cooking class.

I’m also missing Paul Wilson from the Botanical in Australia. He’s also heavy on seafood, but does have a really good looking “Roasted Blackmore, Pure Full Blood Mazuzaka Wagyu Sirloin and Braised Brisket with a Tart of Caramelised Shallots, Celeriac, and Truffles” as his main. And Quinces poached in spiced wine with chestnut and chocolat mousse sounds like a dessert I would enjoy. Still, we all have to make sacrifices.

I realize now that I won’t be in Madison at all!….I hope they don’t think I’m avoiding the room, it’s my favourite brunch spot.

I don’t do Tea, but Nicole Krasinski’s savoury items – Tea Smoked Duck, Hamachi Tartare, Wild Mushroom Financier, and Caramelized Onion-Buckwheat Dumpling with curried yogurt - may cause me to change my mind. The rose petal mousse sounds good, too.

Katrina Kanetani’s turn at Tea on Saturday is cakes. Cakes, cakes, and cakes. Whole cakes – like a Valrhona Chocolate Pave; small cakes – including passion fruit Madeleines; dry cakes – Jamaican rum and coconut; and teeny tiny cakes – okay, they do call them cookies. Brownies, too.

What do I see as direction for now? There’s a lot less lamb on the menu, that’s for certain. It seemed the last couple of years that every meal had a sheep in it somewhere. What I’m noticing this year is a push on wagyu, as it’s on several of the menus. There’s also more in the way of carpaccios and ceviches – although I’d noticed this last year, too.

I’ll be interested in seeing the wines, once things get sorted out. I wonder if I can snag some of the Terrazas de los Andes Malbec……..

#41 Peter Green

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 11:03 AM

7 hours away....and a short wait in a lounge

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It's good to be on the move again.

I'm at the airport now, with three hours to go until boarding. My biggest concern is whether I can buy a bottle from duty free or not. The woman at check in says no, that it's the 100 ml in a zip loc thing, while the other Gulf Air desk monitor here at the lounge tells me to check with the cashier in the duty free shop.

I needed something to worry about.

As I'd skipped dinner, my first meal of the trip was here in the lounge.

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The hot assortment was subcontinental. There were some potatoes in what I think was a sauce of molakhaya. I recognize it from that low tide sort of slime feel it can have. There were also some meatballs of indeterminate origin, but the winner was, by far, the yellow thing. It had the tiniest bit of a bite to it, and buried in the sludge were bits of something soft.

I'd like to say it tasted like chicken.

The rice was broken, my guess would be Egyptian short grain.

Still, I was hungry, and I needed something to sop up the Heiniken, my first beer in several weeks.

That taken care of, I've taken stock of the wines. My first choice, a Bellingham Chardonnay from the Coast Region of South Africa isn't a great success. Harsh would be a kind description......drano might be another. The other offerings are another Afrikaaner, a Delheim Shiraz; a Bouchard Aine & Fils Chassagne-Montrachet; and a Pierre Jouet Champagne Brut. I suspect I'll try the Chassagne- Montrachet next, and then relax with champagne while trying to find a power point I can plug into.

Needless to say, I'm up for the trip. I can fit into my tux, and the Four Seasons will be waiting for me after the trip from Souvarnabhumi. The weather is a respectable 35 centigrade, and humidity is only 74% (compared to 44 centigrade and 71% humidity where I just left).

Ah, when I start writing about the weather it's time to go look for another wine.

Cheers,

Peter

#42 Peter Green

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 09:56 PM

Day 1, Act 1

The landing was uneventful. Given the cracked runways and all at Souvarnabhumi, that’s a good thing ( hey, compared to a lot of strips I’ve landed on…..at least there’s pavement to be cracked).

There are a lot of complaints about the new airport, but I rather like the change. Don Muang had become so overbuilt that, outside of the golf course underfoot as you were landing, there wasn’t much of interest (unless you’ve got a thing for industrial estates).
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But Souvarnabhumi. There you have still-functional klongs, with boats out on them, old homes still leaning precariously into the bayou (bayou, klong, sewer…what’s in a name?)…..and trees. You still have lots of greenery out here. Lots and lots of greenery.

Staring out of the window of the Four Seasons’ Merc, I was zoning out.

Okay, you have a bunch of brand new housing estates that are now complaining about the the noise from the ‘port (how long have they been building this out in Cobra Swamp? By the way, would you buy a home in someplace called Cobra anything?).

Being a Sunday, I was from the airport to the Four Seasons in about half an hour. Gone are the “four hours to Sukhumvit” days. And once we hit Suk, I noticed some signs for Bangkok Car Free Day. Now there’s a concept.

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I was greeted as graciously as you would expect of the 4Seasons, checked in, and then begged off and took advantage of a decent bath tub.

In the room I tidied up, and dipped into the fresh coconut cream mille feuilles they’d put out, along with extremely tart fresh strawberries (from the Royal projects, I suspect).

Princess Somsawalee was due to arrive at 3:00 for a closed function with the chefs. I met some of the wine press down in the lobby and caught up a bit on the weather and other pleasantries. It’s taken a turn for the warmer here, and it was getting to be a chore to be out and about. I debated waiting for the arrival, but chose instead to try and hunt down my tailor. I only had enough shirts for five days with the humidity, and so would need a replenishment.

My tailor is gone. This posed a problem. I comforted myself with a brief stop in Asia Books, where I picked up some recommended material (more on that later). Then I figured it was time to get in a swim and some nibbles.

I’ve written somewhere how much I love the executive floor here. Now that they’ve moved the dinners back to 7:30 (starting last year), I can pace myself to have a few bites from the beautiful appetizers they put out (and a few glasses of wine).

The Chef providing the spread tonight is Bundit Srikeaw, who handles the banquets. His specialty is Indian.

But first,

“Would you like something to drink, Mr. Green?”

“Oh yes”

Why do people even ask?

A pleasant Chilean chardonnay. Good for cutting through the humitdity. Echeverria, from Molina, an unwooded 2006

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My first plate is a sea bass kabob, with a lamb in a good, burning brown sauce, with crisp coconut shreds on top.

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The mango sauce is quite sweet. A mild burn. But the papaya isn’t really green, but closer to ripe. Little nam prik chilis floating in there.

I’ve a glass of the Hardy’s (South Oz) Shiraz – Cab 2005. A good little bite, and doesn’t shrink in the face of the chilis.

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The grilled paneer I would’ve preferred to have had hot, but it was good with the orange chili sauce it was with. The lamb mataba didn’t do much for me.

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The aloo tikka and the fried onion are next (the aloo tikka is behind the samosas in the foreground).

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The aloo tikka is a nice potatoish thing, with a good chutney on top. The fried onion would’ve been better hot, but I appreciate the Thai sauce of chilis, nampla, and sugar on the bottom.
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And now a Long Flat Shiraz. More forward than the Hardy’s but better on the palate.

Hmm….what do the desserts look like?
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Okay, a bit of coconut cream and butter cake. I can’t quite stretch to the black sesame dumpling with ginger vanilla, nor the fruits.
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I need to save some room.

Next, the Siciliians.

#43 Domestic Goddess

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 10:19 PM

Yay! Peter is eating again! What a wonderful first round of foodie pics. Can't wait for the next installments.
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#44 Peter Green

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 03:53 AM

Working on it right now, DG.

And I had them top up a glass of 2001 Grange from the Penfolds tasting to take back to the room to give me inspiration.

(It's a hard life).

#45 Peter Green

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 04:57 AM

This must be a Thai scale I have in the bathroom. When I get on, it says “Err”. That either means something’s wrong, or it doesn’t want to hurt my feelings and doesn’t quite know how to get around to the horrid truth. It could be worse, it could smile and giggle.

Dinner last night was on the Mediterranean, by way of Chicago.

Patrizia di Benedetto
Bye Bye Blues, Palermo, Italy

Angimbe Sicilia IGT 2005 (Insoglia Chardonnay)


Tuna Fillet in Pistachio Crust
And Marsala Sauce
Benuara Sicilia IGT 2005 (Nero d”Avola)


Fish Ragout
In Saffron Sauce and Basil Olive Oil
Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 2005


Eggplant Cannelloni
With Smoked Salted Ricotta
Sagana Sicilia IGT 2004 (Nero d’Avola)



Swordfish Rolls
Mediterranean Style and Caponata
Noa Sicilia IGT 2004 (Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)


Ricotta Cheese Cannolo with Orange Semifreddo,
Almond Air and Bitter Chocolate Tuile with Sicilian Crystal Salt



Coffee Decaffeinated Coffee or Tea


The Chardonnay was a welcome treat after a long day, and a longer night. It was way more fruity than the Chilean I’d been enjoying shortly before, reaching back up into the mouth. It was almost more like a sauvignon blanc, with that lush sense to it.

With this we had a loaf of chestnut bread, with some good quality olive oil for the required fat content. The appetizers had taken the edge off of my hunger, so I wasn’t as savage with this as I normally might be.

ItalThai was sponsoring the wine tonight, acting as agents for the Cusumano brothers, Alberto and Diego.

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Then Gianni Costa (the manager for Biscotti) introduced the chef, Patrizia di Benedetto. The impression you get is one of tranquility. She spoke well, not with reserve, but evenly. She’s had an interesting past. Born in Palermo (in the same year as I) she worked as an accountant until she was 28, then took a sudden left turn when she met her husband, a sommelier, and went into the restaurant business, drawing upon her background in cooking with family and friends. But before opening they did the right thing, and traveled and did their internships over a period of several years, before opening Bye By Blues (more on that later).

In her words, for her the meal is “all about the fish”. And that’s what we were going to get (okay, maybe not the dessert…..)

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The amuse was a little bit on of dry smoked ricotta a crisp cracker, with a line of pesto oil drizzled across. The cheese was excellent, and I wish there was more of it (but it is an amuse, after all). Ricotta seems to be Patrizia’s signature.

The Benuara Sicilia IGT 2005 (Nero d”Avola) had come out. This was very mild, coming across very light. Still, it was wet, and this is me we’re talking about, so I gave it my attention.

As a light red it worked well with the first course, the tuna. It’s hard to go bad with a nice cut of tuna, but I was struck at how muted the flavours were. I was expecting more form the pistachios in the crust, and the Marsala sauce was almost tasteless. I was expecting a thicker, sweeter sauce (it had great texture, though) to set off the fish. Still, while there were comments, there were no complaints.
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The next wine, the Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 2005, had a better nose, and was a darker Sicilian, less cheerful than it’s brother we’d just polished off.

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This came with our fish arancini, a pretty little conceit of a fish mousse in a fried crust to resemble an orange. I’m ignorant, so one of my friends at the table had to explain to me that this is a dish done to resemble an orange (Hey, I was right for once!) and that it’s typically a fried mix of rice, bread, and cheese. The addition of fish is Patrizia’s stamp. My reaction was “If I walked off a ferry in Palermo and I could sit down to this as my first dish, I’d be very happy”.

The Nero d’Avola gave way to the Sagana, with proper deference and all due respect. And the nose got bigger.

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The next dish was my favourite of the meal, the eggplant cannelloni. At first impact, we all thought it was bacon wrapped, but the aubergine had been done such that it carried the texture (and even the flavour) of a fatty strip of bacon. I wish I could do this!

Then the big glasses came out, and we could tell things were getting more serious. The Noa Sicilia was what I’d been thinking of as Sicilian. Thick, solid, oily, it almost feels like drinking blood (I get some strange looks at that). I was very happy at this point, and had this glass repeated several times.

We also had a good idea (I use “we” here to try and take some of the credit) and had the chardonnay repoured to sit and warm. The bits we’d had left in our glasses were actually becoming much more interesting at room temperature, and I’m always game for undertakings done in the name of science.

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The swordfish roll, however, left me muted. Perhaps I’d been expecting a firm cut of flesh, but what appeared instead was a set of tidy little “sausages” of fish meat. Nothing wrong with it, but it seemed a weak finish. However, saying that, I liked the match of the wine with the olives in the caponata.

Dessert was excellent, though, and I see why she’s taken awards for it. The ricotta gives it a wonderful clean feel, and the orange semifreddo is just plain nice. Bits of bitter chocolate don’t hurt, either.

I thought I had a photo of this!

I was just surprised that there was no dessert wine. Or a sparkling to open. But then, this was Sicilian, and I suspect I’ve been overweight for Northerners for awhile. I made do with an espresso (Illy, I believe).

I had to ask, and I did. Patrizia told me that the name of the restaurant had come from a song she’d heard when working in Chicago. Bye Bye Blues, written by the man, Louis Armstrong. She even sung a bit of it (singing is not something I have the courage for).

And I shouldn’t forget the room. Like I say, I like the buzz in Biscotti. There’s lots of open space, with enough stanchioning to give some deflection for privacy. But it was growing deserted, and I could only hope to keep on cadging wine refills for so long. Obviously there was only one course of action open.

I asked about the whiskeys.

For this we had to move to the lobby, but that’s hardly a hardship. Huge ceilings, and some of the best ambience I’ve ever found. Macalan 12 was on offer as part of the dinner, so I settled to a glass of that, with one piece of distilled ice.

Not a bad finish.

I wonder who’s playing at Saxaphone?

note: edited to fix my general incompetence with photos

Edited by Peter Green, 10 September 2007 - 05:03 AM.


#46 percyn

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 12:46 PM

Can't wait to read more !! The Four Seasons in Bangkok is my favorite hotels.

#47 Peter Green

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 03:37 AM

The first cooking class (and lunch)

I would like to say that my body was electrified, my arms a mass of horripilation. I was eager, on edge, ready to enter the fray. As was, I woke up at 10 a.m., trying to remember just what they were playing at Saxaphone last night, and what time it was when I got home. I do remember that, at some point, I was up on my soapbox about Stevie Wonder not being “jazz”.

Okay, I won’t complain. You wake up with your wallet, your passport, and your teeth, you’re doing well, say I.

Anyways, just short of lunch time I made it to class. And this was a class I didn’t want to miss.

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Romain Fornell, from Caelis in Barcelona.

Okay, I admit it, I listen to the press. This fellow was the first Frenchman (Frank? Farang?) to be awarded a Michelin star in Spain. Prior to that he’d graduated top of the class from Toulouse, and “named Best Young Chef in the Mid Pyrennees”. He actually took his first star in Languedoc before moving to Spain (his family does claim Catalan roots) in 2002, and then opened Caelis in 2004, where he took his next star in 2005.

Not bad, eh?

I admit it, this was the guy I’d had my eye upon for this trip. Bright, young, and way too hard working, I figured.

I was right.


The dishes
The Yogurt
Duck Foie Gras, Dry Fruit Muesli

The Macaroni
Chicken, Lobster, Celery, old Parmesan

Mascarpone and Woodland Strawberries

Wines

Senioria De Alange Pardina, 2004

Senoria de Temperanillo, 2004

Palacio Quemado Cosecha, 2000


First up was the second of the book (a little out of order), the Yogurt.

This started off easy enough. A slab of foie gras knifed into three portions of 100 gm each. A bit of salt and pepper on both sides, and then a quick ride in a hot pan for colour. Pull the pan from the heat, and then give it a quick turn and pop the pan into the oven for 3 minutes.

The muesli is little more than a long toast of some bananas, raspberries, and macadamia nuts. These get put into a plastic sleeve for the proper industrial look.

There’s a chicken stock to be done (200gm), but that’s not rocket science (although, considering the current mess at NASA……)

When the foie is pulled from the oven, we all stop. This is what we want to see. Floppy, soft, internal organs, glistening with beads of fat. Heck, I’ve used the line before, but I’ll say it again “George A Romero would be very happy”.

The stock and foie gras are put together, and then take a trip to Mr. Blender for a proper seeing to. At this point we want to start getting more air into the mix, and we want to get rid of the chunky bits, to which purpose we strain the whole affair through a chinoise, mainly to get the peppers out, but also to mash through any unprocessed bits of fg.

At this point the colour has gone paler, and there’s more “fluffiness” to the thing. Still, it’s not there.

Having removed the pepper by straining, we season it with some pepper (Hey! I’m only reporting what I see).

Now it gets fussy.

We add some xanthan. What he has is Xantana, which, from checking on the net, is being promoted by El Bulli (among others). Here’s the quote:
In the kitchen products for thickening sauces, creams, juices and soups have always been used. Starches and flour are the traditional thickeners, but the disadvantage is that a large quantity has to be added, which affects the final taste. ?With the Espesantes family we present Xantana, a new product which can thicken kitchen preparations using a minimum quantity and without distorting the initial taste characteristics.

Then we put the stuff into a siphon, and put the siphon into an ice bath, rotating it obsessively (I can do that).

Then you pull out your gas canisters, which you have on hand, given that you own a siphon, and charge the puppy up. It’ll take two canisters to be up to speed. Then give this overcharged pressurized land mine a good shake (and Anthony Bourdain was scared of pressure cookers).

At this point, you can squirt the mix out into anything, top and seal it with whatever, and serve the muesli on the side.
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Piece of cake (or foie), eh?

Well, the next is best for those with OCD.

The Macaroni

We start by prepping the stock. The lobster head is quartered, and then put into a large pan with a healthy splash of olive oil, pressing the shells into the heat with his finger tips. Then, after it colours up a bit, in go the standard chopped onion, carrot, and garlic that you’d expect. Again, let the colour develop, and then add some tomato and thyme to the pan, with a splash more oil for consistency, avoiding any browning. Splash in some water, and then add reduced cream.

Give it a soft stir, and then strain through the chinois

Meanwhile we have some more cream warming up on the side that we’ll use for the gratinee, with some nice parmesan for grating, and the macaroni, long large tubes, boiled up and then removed to ice once done. This’ll firm them up to help avoid any breaking. He recommends keeping them in the fridge overnight after cooking.

So, we’ve got the macaroni, we have our lobster stock, and we have cream ready for the gratinee. We take the cream out of the pot and use that pot for doing up the filling. We toss in the celery for a short saute, the lobster meat, foie gras, and the chicken - the lobster and chicken already cooked - all diced up fine. This goes on medium heat with a plate over top for some 10 minutes, and then is removed to come down to room temperature. Once it’s “not too hot or cold” it’s mashed down to a paste and put into a pastry bag for squeezing.

We use that 10 minutes to grate the parmesan and mix it in with the cream.

The macaroni are injected from both ends, a fussy business with the viscosity of the filling working against you. I think this could be better accomplished with one of those big horse syringes like Paco Rancero was using to create his olive oil noodles.

The translation that has been underway is not quite on, and one of my friends fills in for us. What is translated from the front is “this should be done in advance” but what Romain actually says is “if you wait for the last minute to do this you’ll turn mad”.

All of this is effectively the prep. Definitely a “day before” dish.

We still have to assemble.

(My friends at the table have taken up a serious discussion as to the joys of simple cooking)

We put the cream and cheese sauce over the arranged stuffed macaroni and place the pan in the oven.

We take our lobster sauce to warm, and a little lesithin (3g), which works as a fat emulsifier. We leave this to thicken a bit, and then hit it with Mr. Buzzy, the handheld mixer, running the blades near the surface to bring enough air into it to make some foam. The saucier portion goes into the bottom of the bowl, then the macaroni are removed from the oven and oh so carefully arranged; a little olive oil is drizzled around the edges, and the foam added to the top.

I’ve gotta try this at home. I wonder where I can get a big syringe.

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And last is dessert

Mascarpone and Woodland Strawberries

This is composed of mascarpone, crumble, and a strawberry sorbet.

First the crumble. We do a hand mix of 100g of butter, 120g of icing sugar (sugar glace), 100g of flour, and 6g (a pinch) of fleur de sel. This goes into the oven at 88 c for an hour to dry out, getting broken up a couple of times to get the crumbly crustini type texture.

For the mascarpone cream we take the pan off the heat and mix up some sugar (270g) and egg yolks (120g). Meanwhile we’re heating some cream, which we then add to the mix - like making crème Anglais (why does English Cream sound better in French?).

As a note on yolks, I love looking at them here. The colour is so much more vibrant in the yolks here than the pale things I have at home.

We put 6g of gelatine in ice water and let it get “pully”.

Meanwhile we’re mixing and mixing the crème anglaise, removing any granularity that might remain. Once that’s a smooth as can be (maybe one last blend for good luck) we squeeze out our gelatin and beat it into the crème with 590g of Mascarpone, going for a really runny texture. Let this cool down, and then pour the mix into molds and pop them into the freezer. They’re using rubber molds as they’ll be easier for pushing out later.

The sorbet is simple sugar syrup blended in with fresh strawberries, then strained to remove the seeds. Into the freezer, and that’s that.

To assemble, the crumble is put into a ring mold so you can press it down a bit, then the mold is removed, the mascarpone cream is spatula’d on top, and then some bits of chocolate are topped to tart it up a bit. The strawberry sorbet is painted onto the plate, and you’re there.

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All done, we’re ready to eat.

But first, a word from our sponsors.

The three wines were poured for us at this point. Alvear was the wine of the day, with their winemaker Mr. Inigo Manso de Zuniga Ugartechea describing their products. They’re located in Andalusia, down in the SouthWest. They’re about 150 km from the coast, 90 minutes out of Seville, and at an elevation of 400m. As Mr Manso describes it “a beautiful place, but it’s the middle of nowhere”.

There are about 5,000 hectares under production. Historically, they’d done white wines for brandy and sherries. Now there’s more red being done, with the hardy tempranillo taking well to the soil. He sees their position as being on the split of Northern and Mediterranean wines.

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We’ll be drinking three today with lunch. The Pardina would be the first, as he describes it “a wine to be taken young, with good hints of green to it”. Some flavours of mint and other herbs, bringing to mind similarities with a Semillon. It’s very fresh, and fills your mouth out quite well. This would be a very nice wine for sitting outside in the patio and admiring a sunny afternoon.

The second was the Senorio de Tempranillo 2004. A medium body, not a great nose but very easy to drink. Hints of raspberry in there. A pleasant wine, with a very “local” feel to it.

The third – the Palacio Quemado Cosecha 2000 - I quite liked as a food companion. A blend of 10% granache and 90% tempranillo. This had been oaked for 9 months in American barrels. The wood and fruit was well integrated in the wine, with nice details in the nose and the palate. Lots of dark, ripe plumb, and some vanilla from the oak. Very smooth.

Everyone was getting hungry, but we wanted to hear about the wines. I was happy that they were explaining things, as in past years the wine tastings had gone by the wayside, and the wine was provided with the lunchs but without explanations. This was a welcome change.

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Still, hunger can only wait so long. The “yogurt” was taunting us, the little sleeve of muesli just begging to be opened and mixed in. As soon as the talking was over we were in.

And this was good. I could have foie gras “yogurt” for breakfast all the time. The chicken stock/foie blend is light, and the sweetness from the dried fruits works with it. Partnered with that very fresh Pardina and I was getting all perky again.

Then the Macaroni. If the yogurt was a treat, this was the whole Hallowe’en sack. The sauce was thick, gravy like, the taste of lobster fattened up with the cream and foie gras, and the parmesan accenting each bit of the macaroni. I concentrated on the Palacio with this, as the deeper flavours of that wine went with all the details in this dish.

This was fine enough that we asked for more bread, and all of us set to mopping up the sauce.

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The dessert was an afterthought for me, I must admit. The plating was different, the painting of strawberry replaced by a nice ball of the sorbet. But now the sorbet was on the crumble while the mascarpone was on a bit of what tasted like shortbread. The mascarpone cream was okay, but not really anything outstanding. I think it suffered in the shadow of the macaroni (Hmmm “shadow of the macaroni” would be a great title for something…..)

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Anyways, it was 2:30 now, and there was the Grange tasting at 3. It was time to get moving.

#48 Peter Green

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 05:11 PM

The Grange Tasting

I’ve a lot to say about the Grange, but I’m going to do it later. It’s dawn here in Bangkok, and this is my fourth day. I look at my notes, and I’m falling way behind.

So, I’ll give you a brief on the tasting now, and come back later.

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Here’s what we covered.

Peter Gago, Penfolds’ fourth Chief Winemaker, gave us the history of the Grange. I’ve sat through his talks before, and he’s fun. A lot of fun. But then he has the advantage of being Australian. I think it also helps that he was a schoolteacher before he moved into wines.

Anyways, his talk wound around and about the wines and the winery, giving us time to taste and consider, while taking in more of the history of the 163 year old Penfolds.

The ’81 was our opener. He’d brought it out as an example of the slow development of the wine, 26 years and only just beginning to soften.

Then he jumped to the ’95,’96, and ‘97. The ’95 probably the least of the ‘90’s, to be compared to the ’96, which falls into the “wow” list. The thing is that the “least” isn’t too shabby at all, but you really appreciate the ’96 right after. And then the ’97 is different again, having a “leave me alone” note to it, begging for more time in the bottle (a lot more time).

The ’99 had taken 100 points, and was, I would say, quite drinkable. But it was the 2001 that really took my attention. And the poor 2002, their newest Grange (it’s released as a 5 year old) suffered in its shadow.

As I said, I’ll save the details until I can catch up on other things.

There’s a dinner to be done.

Next: How Much Foie Can One Man Eat?

#49 Peter Green

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Posted 11 September 2007 - 09:43 PM

Michael Ginor

Angimbe Sicilia IGT 2005 (Insoglia Chardonnay)

Terrine of Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Hibiscus
Ginestet 2005 Bordeaux Blanc

Tartar of Tuna and Nori-Salt Cured Foie Gras
Black Truffle
Laurent-Perrier Brut

Butter Poached Lobster and Foie Gras Flan
Beet

Pork Belly and Miso Marinated Foie Gras
Ginger
Laurent-Perrier ‘Cuvee Rose’

Kobe Beef, Foie Gras, and Shitake Mushrooms
Sukiyaki
Laurent-Perrier ‘Grand Siecle’

Yuzu blanc Manger with Matcha Foam
Passion Fruit and Tapioka Pearl Shooter
Baron de Montesquieu Grave Moelleux 2003

Petits Fours


It was actually supposed to be the Bordeaux for openers, but we recognized the fruit in the Angimbe right out. When the Ginestet arrived at the table, it was quite restrained in comparison to the Italian…..that doesn’t sound too surprising, does it?

And this was not a meal about restraint.

How Michael Ginor manages his pace, I will never know. He’s doing planes, trains, and automobiles for months at a time, and then hits the ground and starts organizing, socializing, and just getting things done. And all with perfect aplomb. When he fielded the PETA protesters last year he was the perfect gentleman.

But anyways, let’s get down to the food.

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The first dish was an eye catcher. A deep red jelly of hibiscus around a medallion of foie. Sweet, we almost thought there was beet root in it, and some cranberry, but it was all hibiscus, with small salt crystals setting off the terrine like jewels.

We dropped the Bordeaux white and moved to champagne, the Laurent-Perrier doing a fine job of cleaning the mouth.

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The next dish, the nori cured foie gras, is one of my favourite flavours so far. The mix of fat from the foie and the tuna was haunted by a snake of wasabi flavour that ran through it. I asked Michael about this, and he had used a wasabi oil to get the flavour muted enough to work this well. The truffles were there, just running a little bit on the front of the palate, a hint of earthiness.

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The lobster was pretty, and the flan worked very well. Michael had done the flan last year, but at that time I’d felt that it’s delicacy was buried under the other dishes that were going around it. Here, coming after the tuna and accompanied by the buttery flavour of the lobster, it held it’s own.

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Pork belly? How can you go wrong with a piece of pork belly? And the miso comes through with the foie gras. This idea came from Nobu Matsuhisa, who’s very fond of miso marinades.

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The Kobe beef is good, but not quite right. The idea had been to hit the dish with the hot consommé, and let that finish the cooking. But when the soup came out it was tepid. I still wouldn’t complain, the flavours were good, but I know some of my dinner companions felt that the this would have been better hotter, releasing more of the aromas from the mushrooms and oils.
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And we wrap up with the blanc mange, soft, light, and very green teaish, the macha worth scouring out of the bowl. And the tapioca got us off on a discussion of who has the better Bubble Tea, Vancouver or Hong Kong (M says Hong Kong, I won't argue with her).

Working with Michael was David Britton, from the Spring Water Bistro in Saratoga, upstate New York. He stopped by the table, and we chatted about his place. He’s taken the approach that, given there’s so much good produce in his immediate area, he’ll work with what he has available by the day, which is the perfect attitude to have when your friend Michael Ginor asks you to pop out with him for a bit of traveling cuisine.

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Bubbles always put me in a good mood.


Shintaro was a good choice for this. Usually Michael’s dinners are in Madison, which is a larger room. Here it’s a pretty small venue, and the food was staged out at a very leisurely pace. This gave me plenty of time to catch up on gossip with M, one of my favourite foody friends. She was getting me all interested in Singapore again, particularly a place called Sin Huat Eating House (I think that’s the spelling) which is getting referred to as the Nazi Café (M has since modified this to calling him "moody"). Nothing to do with swastikas, but you have no choice in what you eat. The guy there tells you “this is it” and you take it. Or get out. Or wait two hours and then get out. I think there was a Seinfeld episode related to this somewhere (but that was soup). She’d also done Arum, with the wheelchairs and IV bags. She agreed that this wasn’t necessarily the best idea for Chinese sensibilities.

We wrapped up, thanked everyone for an excellent meal, and headed for the lobby for some whisky.

Note: editted to update the Sin Huat piece...I gotta get back to Singapore soon.

Edited by Peter Green, 12 September 2007 - 02:39 AM.


#50 Peter Green

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 07:07 PM

Nicole Krasinski – Rubicon – San Francisco

I don’t suppose it’s a bad thing being one of the first restaurants in the US to take a Michelin star, and Nicole as well has enough awards – Rising Star I think is appropriately appropriate for a pastry chef.

And she wasn’t alone here, either. Stuart Brioza, Rubicon’s Executive Chef, was on hand as well, supporting Nicole and doing a fair share of the talking. And I like listening to him talk. I was getting a feel of Home Improvement at times. The two together do a great class, with good explanations and a feeling of general fun. I like it when people enjoy what they do.

Is it just me, or do pastry chefs always seem a lot happier than everyone else? I know from Emily Luchetti (Farallon, San Francisco as well, from last year’s WGF) is that part of it is going home every day smelling of sugar, cinnamon, and everything nice……

Nicole and Stuart ran us through three dishes to tie in with their theme of a tea service which they were handling in the lobby.

Hamachi Tartare
Qinoa Crepe, Pickled Carrots, Crème Fraiche

Caramelized Hazelnut Rice Pudding
Caraway Brown Butter, Apricot Compote

Bittersweet Chocolate Croquettes
Szechuan Pepper Sabayon, Honey Roasted Pears



The crepes were first up. Nicole got this underway, having Stuart brown the butter while she took over the talking. She looks to create texture in her crepes, and does this with spices, in this case crushed coriander seeds. Also they’re using quinoa, from South America. They were referring to it as “a perfect protein”. Looking it up it’s quite interesting. It’s a pseudocereal, not really a grass, but a variant of goosefoot. Besides being extremely well balanced in terms of nutrients, it’s also gluten free, so I could see how this would be getting popular in these times of endemic allergies.

(I’m curious if anyone’s tried using this instead of rice in a larb? Any comments from out there?)

The browned butter went into the crepe batter (just milk, eggs, and the flour), and then she mixed in the crushed spices and the quinoa, some sea salt, and Tabasco (which they consider third in line after béchamel and mayonnaise). A pan got a light wipe with an oiled paper towel, put on medium heat (not too hot!) and then spooned in as a pancake style, rather than over the bake of a pan.

A salad was done up quickly on the side, sunimono style, with shaved carrot pealings lightly pickled in rice vinegar, sea salt, sugar, and some EVOO. Then it got hit with some coriander and mint, just to keep our noses awake.

The hamachi (a nice fatty fish that they got as a wild catch from Japan) was sashimi’d.

The crepe went on the plate, the salad went on the crepe, and the hamachi went on the salad. A drizzle of some EVOO, a bit more sea salt, and then the cream fresh like a drift of Christmas snow on top of everything. Pretty.

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I already mentioned the general glee that pervades dessert chefs. Every time something worked well, we’d get a triumphant sibilant “Yesss!” from Nicole. We got that a lot.

Then we did everyone’s old favourite, rice pudding. For this she was using Arborio rice for the same reason as why we’d use it for risotto. The rounded grains hold well, and they give up their starch just they way you’d want for this sort of dish.

She does the rice like a milk risotto, heating the milk in a pan, then grating in cinnamon and nutmeg, and then whisking in the rice, boiling for a minute, then reducing the heat and stirring for two minutes. Then she lets it simmer for 45 minutes with the occasional stir to keep it from sticking. When that’s done, it goes straight onto an ice bath, where she continues to stir as it cools, developing the creaminess.

Nicole likes to stir.

She did a caraway brown butter to tie into the tea service. Easy enough, just lightly toast some caraway seeds, and then add the browned butter (it’s a good idea to keep browned butter around with these two).

The apricot compote was simple enough, using dried apricots. Any dried fruits could be used for this. Taste the fruit for sweetness, and add the appropriate amount of sugar to a cup of water. She cooks it just enough to plump the fruit up and start the breakdown, and then adds lime zest and lemon juice (“Yesss!”), and then it takes on a nice sheen with the sugar all dissolved. Then spoon this out and mix it with the brown butter and caraway.

The tuile was the fun part. This is a twice baked tuile, so we’re going for a lighter caramel. Sugar, cream of tartar, and enough water to make a wet sand is heated up to a until the bubbles get larger and slow down (Hmmm…..that sounds like me).

Note that a lot of these things are all going on at the same time. Nicole feels that a successful dessert operation keys off of multi tasking. If you can manage five or six things simultaneously, you’re going to be successful (“Yessss!”)

The caramel got poured out onto a silicon mat (God’s gift to dessert chefs), and then, once cooled, ground down. Some ground nuts were whisked in, and a touch of salt to counter the sweetness. You keep this covered, as it’ll suck in any water in the air.

After that breakup, sift it and then it gets heated up again, an annealing process. 325 degrees for a bit, pull it to shape, and then use it in the dessert.

Put the rice in the bowl, put in the compote (which was reheated so it didn’t solidify), and then garnish with the tuile.

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“Yesss!”

The third dish had me really excited. Anything with Szechuan peppercorns gets me really excited. And peppercorns get Stuart excited, too, so we’re a pretty worked up crowd.

Stuart was particularly admiring the fresh green peppercorns of Thailand, the ones we’ll find clustering like grape shot in our curries and other dishes.

They’re getting high quality Szechuan peppercorns now in San Francisco, which is a blessing. It seems that the US Food & Ag people had banned the little devils, and only opened things up again 3 or so years ago.

The peppercorns are steeped in heavy cream, removed from the heat and wrapped for 30 minutes before being strained out. Then the cream is chilled in an ice bath to be used in the sabayon.

The ganache recipe she uses is a favourite of hers. Pretty much foolproof, with no breaking. She’ll work with two types of chocolate to give her some play on the balance, generally a 58% and a 72%. In terms of makers, she’s got the normal preference for Valrhona, but also is quite happy with Scharffenberg across the bay (who were out here at the WGF in 2006 and 2004 respectively). A pinch of salt in the chocolate as it sits over the baine marie.

Eggs, egg yolks, sugar are beaten with appropriate joy, and then the chocolate is scraped in and whisked some more. Add the butter, and look for it to get shiny. Once it’s all beaten up, into the fridge for a couple of hours.

The pears are peeled, except for the crown, and put standing in a pan with honey, butter, sugar, and lemon zest, and then it’s like roasting a chicken. You roast it standing for 30 minutes, flip it to one side for 20 minutes, then flip it to the other for 20 minutes, and finally bring it back to standing, at which point you baste it every 10 minutes until the top turns black.
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The croquettes are formed by taking the ganache in a ball, and putting it into an egg-washed sheet of brick dough. “What’s brick dough?” we all shout. “It’s a specialty item from France” says Nicole, “probably the only thing we don’t make in our kitchen”. “What can we use instead?” cry we.

Phylo is the best bet. Use two sheets as a replacement. The brick dough comes in the sheerest of sheets, and is designed to fry crisp very quickly (and very crisp).

They fry these things in rice bran oil. This is a new product out of California that’s proving useful, as it has a high smoking temperature while being neutral in flavour.

You can do this wrap the day before, and fry close to the time of serving. But they’ll stay warm for awhile.

Fry the packet up, and it’s like a crispy, chocolate filled spanikitopita. Heck, if we use phylo it is a chocolate filled spanikitopita. My one caution would be that you could end up with the “glass shards” texture, that’s one reason for looking for brick dough if you can find it (I can’t).

Nicole is ready for the sabayon, whisk clutched gleefully in her hand. She likes beating things. The cream is strained of the peppercorns beforehand, and then whipped to medium peaks. A sweet wine, here a Muscat, is put in a pan with some sugar to dissolve, the pan tilted and rotated about to dissolve. Then the egg yolks are in a bowl, the wine is poured in, and she’s whisking again. Then this is thrown on an ice bath right away, and she continues whisking. She wants the mix the same temperature as the cream so they’ll blend. We get that lemon curd, ribbony look, and we’re there. Fold in the cream now and keep it chilled.

“Yesss”

Her notes recommend serving the sabayon in a small picture on the side of the crocquette, but here she plated the pears first, poured the sabayon over these, and then put the croquette atop.
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The meal hits the table starting with the crepe. Everyone else messes about with knives and such, but I make a minor calculation and figure it’s smaller than my head, so it should go in one bite.

I need to work on my calculations.

But it was a nice way to do it. Nicole was quite right that the crème fraiche was a key to the flavours.

Next they brought out the duck. They found out the night before that they needed to have a full lunch for this class, so they “put this together”. Crusted with cumin, peppers, ginger, rosemary and garlic. This was roasted, and then served over curried caramelized onion.

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The result of this impromptu decision was an incredibly “beefy” duck (loads of meat) with no gaminess. The spices took away much of that, and the bite of the pepper reminded you that you were there (now, if only they’d used Szechuan peppercorn on this).

The rice salad was good, but I actually would’ve preferred it without the compote. I found that the sourness of it detracted from the rich creaminess and sweetness of the pudding.

Mind you, we were told this would bring back memories of our childhood meals. We all had memories, but none of them were good.

We also started talking about how you can sometimes get Bhutanese apricot jam at the Nai Lert Bakery.

And Philipe is sounding good for a nice French dinner.

The final dessert was what I was waiting for. The sabayon, pear, and croquette. The Szechuan peppercorn came through pretty muted, but maybe that’s best for this sort of thing.

Now, when I get done with this trip, I think there’s a Szechuan peppercorn ice cream to be done up.

“Yesss!”

#51 Peter Green

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Posted 12 September 2007 - 09:37 PM

An idle moment. I don't have to be in class for another half hour. I'll step out of sequence, and let real time stream in for a moment. With Nicole's class posted today, I'm behind two dinners and a class (and it was a great class, Wilson from Melbourne's The Botanical).

So far there have been no hitches. Malcolm Omond, the new F&B here has been on the move, and I suspect his life is "complicated" at the moment, but he has a good team here, and things are holding together, with only a few things being tuned as the week progresses.

And the Russians are here, just not as part of the WGF. They're running a promotion in Aqua, so hopefully I'll cut some free moments this evening before the Gala to chat with them a bit. Russian Standard was pretty much the vodka of choice when I was in Moscow last year, and what little I've been able to read, they appear to be making a push on the higher end of the market internationally. It's just going to cost me a change of clothing, as I know I'll be running with perspiration as soon as I step outside (Aqua is in the courtyard). Still, a good vodka martini can be quite cooling.......

Class today will be Suzanne Tracht. Hopefully she'll be doing her pot roast. I bet she does, as they seem to be following their dinner menus with some degree of accuracy. There have been some mumbles, but I'm quite content with this. I like seeing the details on how things are put together either before, or after.

In case you're wondering, I did put a foot outside of the hotel today. As always, I love what I can find in the stalls, but I'll have next week for that (after the WGF). Right now, I'm saving myself (plus, I still have to fit into my tux tonight).

Cheers,

peter

#52 Peter Green

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 02:48 AM

Romain Fornell – Caelis – Barcelona




Senorio De Alange Pardina 2004

The Yogurt
foie gras / dry fruits muesli


The Norway Lobster
cooked and chilled / “Arborio” rice cream / mushroom tartar
Fino En Rama 2000

The Macaroni
chicken – lobster / celery / old parmesan
Senorio de Anlange Tempranillo 2004

Duckling
Coriander crust / crispy foie cream / reduced coffee juice
Palacio Quemado Cosecha 2000


Mascarpone & Woodland Strawberries
Pedro Ximenez 2000


60% of this was going to be a repeat of the cooking class. That’s not a bad thing, as it was a cooking class I enjoyed. It may not have been one I could recreate, but I could enjoy.

For this we were back in Biscotti, where we’d started with Partrizia di Benedetto. Clean lines, slate ceilings, and that big, beautiful open kitchen. As I’ve mentioned before, you get the room filled, and you have a wonderful buzz of conversation filling all of the audio dead spots.

We’d started with the Pardina, and this was just as good as it had been the other day. Very fresh, and working well to stabilize my body temperature at something below “braise”. This also went well with the loaf of rosemary bread they put on the table and we ripped to shreds (sorry, we were too fast for photos of the whole loaf).
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The first dish, the yogurt, felt a bit heavier than in the cooking class. There it had had more of a moussiness to it, whereas now, while lighter than a pate, it was still more settled. And we didn’t get the little gold cap and the sleeve of muesli (already in). I liked those touches. Instead we had a pubic fuzz of strangled sugar that just got in the way, as opposed to directly adding the clean textural contrast that the muesli provided (along with the sweetness).

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A small glass arrived, which seemed odd. But what it was meant for was a very dry sherry, the Fino En Rama. Dry, very dry, and delicate. There’s a bit of saltiness to it, and a clarity to drinking. I’m surprised. But I don’t drink a lot of sherry these last few years, so maybe this isn’t news. One of my dinner companions nods his head, and feels this is about what it should be. This would be great with tapas or Oriental food.

The Lobster that it’s served with is fair enough, but I would have preferred the shellfish a little warmer to counter the chilled topping. The “Arborio Rice Cream” is a risotto-like mix that carries the mushroom tartare very well. Overall, this is a good match with the fino, as the dish is very sweet and “white”, offsetting the dryness and salt in the sherry.

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The Macaroni was a disappointment, much because I had been talking it up so much from our cooking class. Then it had come across very full-frontal, with a thick gravy of foie gras making us run for more buns. Here Romain had tried to lighten the dish up, so as not to overwhelm the guests who were in for a much larger meal than what had happened in the class. “C’mon, I like being overwhelmed”, say I. But he’d done a slightly thinner sauce, with smaller macaroni. Presentation was excellent, and if I hadn’t fed off of the bigger sibling the day before I would have been more enthusiastic, but this dish suffered in the comparison.

Likewise, the Tempranillo, a wine I found to be a good, “sitting around and drinking” wine, wasn’t at home with this setting, feeling like the pretty girl who finds herself in the room of cigar smoking padrones.

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But the duckling that came next was excellent. Like the duck they’d served at this day’s cooking class, this thing seemed to be on breast enhancement therapy, with a huge amount of red, bleeding meat there to be enjoyed. Well, enjoyed at least by me. Just as rare squab has not been popular with the Asian market, duck with any juices doesn’t really go over well here. However, the other Asian concern, the gamey smell, just wasn’t there. Like the lunch, this had been drawn away and tamed by fresh spices. The reduced coffee gave a nice background to it, too. And a terrine of foie gras? Who am I to complain?

And the Palacio, that we’d enjoyed before, was a good match for this. Strong, lush, with lots of fruit to go with the fowl. For me, a very nice finish to the meal; redemption for the weakness of the spirit that led to the toning down of the macaroni.

The dessert, well, as I said, I’m not a dessert person. But the wine, the Pedro Ximenez 2000, was excellent. A sticky syrup of plum flavours, something you might take for a bad cough (sorry). But the sweetness of this helped the dessert immensely, giving it body and depth.
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I called for another glass of the Fino, as I found it hard to believe that these two wines were related. But, as was explained (patiently) to me, the Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes for the PX 2000 are dried on mats until they give up about half their volume, becoming more raisins than grapes. These are then used to develop the viscously sweet concoction we’re drinking here.

A good dinner, but living in the shadow of a better lunch. If I’d missed the one, I’d have enjoyed this the more.

Note - Edited for dyslexia

Edited by Peter Green, 13 September 2007 - 02:49 AM.


#53 Peter Green

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 09:02 PM

Cooking with Paul Wilson – The Botanical – Melbourne

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“I’m a big lad”.

Yeah, and Australia is just an island off of Asia.

With Paul Wilson taking us through his cooking, it’s like class with Hagrid. He’s that large. I keep expecting him to bring out a griffin or something to eat one of us.

The good side is, as he says, he’s got all the pots and pans he needs. No one’s going to scrap with him over them.

The lad has an excellent pedigree, with a string of successes in London and Melbourne. Particularly in Melbourne. He was the Good Food Guide’s Chef of the Year in 2002, with the Botanical, a reworked pub, taking Best Restaurant at the same time.

Here’s what we were going to do:

Carpaccio of Hiramasa Kingfish
with Rock and Pacific Oyster

Roasted Snapper with Braised Wild Rice
And Calamari, Ink Sauce

Quinces Poached in Spiced Wine
With Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse



Our wines were Penfolds

Koonunga Hill, Chardonnay 2006

Bin 8, Cabernet Shiraz 2004

Bin 138, Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2004


So let’s start with a bit of Kingfish. The canny Aussies are labeling this as Hiramasa in an attempt to entice the Japanese sushi market. The fish are farmed, but done so in tidal estuaries. This way the tidal action gives some muscle workout for the fish, and although farmed can have decent texture. He describes the meat off of this as similar to salmon, although I’d say the only similarity is in the oiliness of the fish, which means it’ll lend itself well to serious chilling, if not freezing. Which is what they do, of course, for bringing it to market, shipping it in ice slurries.

In pride of place in front of the fish are the oysters, two different types – Pacific and wee little Sydney Rocks (not Flats, today). Being a Vancouver boy, I’m very partial to oysters, and I well appreciate the meat to shell ratio you get in the rocks.

And the oysters are well accompanied by a jar of Sevruga caviar…….anything is well accompanied by Sevruga, come to think of it.

The curious ones, though, are the finger limes. These look for all the world like large chilies to me, with a ruddy colour, and drips of a blood like liquid oozing out.

Paul dabs some EVOO into the pan, and throws in a finely chopped handful of shallots to get down to work. Then he turns to the oysters, giving us a quick lesson in shucking, working the blade into the hinge, and then working with that Braille like feel until you get the moment where you can twist and pop it open.

In Australia they generally still buy their oysters shucked. It’s just an old habit. But think of the precious juice you’re losing, and all the things that you can accomplish with it! I still remember the oyster juice glaze that Zieboldt from the French Laundry did on his cauliflower pannacotta. Paul, after a quick smell of the sea in his hands, pours aside the juice for his use.

There was a small discussion of buying oysters. The obvious thing is to look to the weight. An oyster full of juice has learned to keep its trap shut and has stayed fresh, retaining its fluids, whereas a lightweight will have been opened at some inopportune time and is on its way out. And when you shuck, you should have that smell of the sea.

For the shucked oysters still popular in Australia, you’re just going to have to trust your fishmonger. Obviously, if he’s got some sense of ethics (and self-preservation) he’s not going to want sick customers, so that’s something. Otherwise, you’ll just have to go by the freshness of everything else in the shop.

I’ll stick to having the shell on.

The shallots are ready, as are the oysters. It seems a shame not to eat them raw, but they go into the shallots, and are gently warmed, going opaque, at which time they’re removed.

The vinegar goes into the pot to reduce, and the juices go in as well, concentrating to a syrup. For the vinegar, he’s using a Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, which has a great smell as it heats down.

Having shivved the oysters, we turn the knife to the fish. It’s firm from freezing (Glad wrapped – that always sounds so happy) and ready to take the blade, which runs long down against the grain, taking the meat away in a shaving.

Paul freely admits to the general abuse of the language by chefs. Carpaccio, stolen without shame by chefs from the 15 th Century Italian painter, Vittore Carpaccio, who is now only remembered for the fact that he uses a lot of red, and so Harry’s in Venice came up with their dish of marinated beef. And now it’s used everywhere.

He then gets the dressing ready. A selection of herbs are used; chives, baby mache, rocket, water cress, shallots, the zest of a lime, and the flesh (or caviar) scraped out of the finger limes. A little Chablis goes in with this, a wine that works with fish very well. Toss in the oyster juice, a little sugar, sea salt and pepper corns, and some light olive oil.

Paul puts up a good call for the Aussie olive oil producers, and he’s using one from there that’s lighter and peppier than the Italians or Spanish.


Now we turn our attention back to the pannacotta. The Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar has reduced. We squeeze out some gelatin sheets and add them in with the cooked, (chopped for the Pacific) oysters, and then, once it sets, we give it a proper seeing to with Mr. Buzzy (the hand blender). Then dab in some Tabasco, Worcestshire, whatever you like. Once you’re certain it’s cooled to the temperature of the cream, go ahead and fold in the soft whipped cream in the mix. Then put it into some ring molds, and don’t even start to think about how you’re going to get it out of those.

Plate the fish, use a cookie cutter if you want a really circular look to it (me, I’ll just fold it in, I hate to lose good fish). Have some hot water handy to heat a knife, and slide that around the ring mold to get the mousse away so you can top the fish with it.

Now you’re on a clock. The rest of this has to be done quickly.

The mousse is going to start melting. It’s warm in here, so the mousse is going to start melting as soon as it’s out of the fridge. You top the mousse with one of those pretty little Rock oysters you’ve held back (and massive self restraint has kept you from eating on its own during all of this). You garnish with some cucumber strips which will help the overall texture, and then add some of the julliened onions. The greens are arranged, and a heaping spoonful of Sevruga caviar is placed atop. The dressing is applied about the edges of the pile, the lime caviar in the apron in contrast to the black opulence atop.

Now you really have to move, as the lime is going to cook the fish, along with the mousse melting. This is not a plate you can have hanging around in kitchen.
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Speaking of melting, Paul is a man after my own glands. While it’s not overbearingly hot, the humidity in here is having its wicked way with him, and he’s having to step back from his pans from time to time and given himself a mopping down.

Next……

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Roasted Snapper with Braised Wild Rice and Calamari with Ink Sauce[/b[

Mr. Wilson feels that a good dish should concentrate on, at most, three or four ingredients on a plate. Looking at some of the dish we’re going to be doing, though, we’re pushing that.

Snapper’s a common (and tasty) fish in Melbourne, and the sample he’s brought is a beautiful, silvery colour. What we have here (and back in my home), a red snapper, is what they would call a Red Emperor (Mao?) down under.

And then there’s the wild rice. As Paul says, “this is not technically a rice, but a grain. But who cares?”

We start by cooking the rice (actually, we start by soaking the rice, but that would’ve been an hour or more earlier, and we don’t have that sort of time). We’re going for a pilaf or pilau, starting with olive oil, garlic, and onions, working to caramelize the onions and garlic. Then toss in a few stalks of rosemary. This will cook to the point where it falls apart and “becomes one with the rice” (which has a nice Zen cooking ring to it).

The rice is drained, and tossed in, and then fried lightly to open up the starch, as you would a risotto (a pilaf, by definition, is first fried in oil). Then you add in two parts chicken stock for one part rice, tap in some butter, and put the lid on and bake for 25 minutes in the oven, giving an occasional stir so it doesn’t stick.

A lemon has been confit’d, just slices sitting in some lemon juice and salt for a couple of days. It’s already been blowtorched to caramelize as the hotel’s smoke alarms may have something to say to us if we start blasting here.

He has some fish and veal stock already, so we use the bones from this snapper for the sauce. For this, there’s a large, very hot pot that takes a big splash of olive oil. Into this go the bones taken from the snapper, which are pushed down at first into the hot bottom. After this picks up some colour, in goes the butter, some salt and pepper, and then the onion and garlic.

This sweats for a bit (like Paul and I), and then you introduce balsamic vinegar (always the vinegar before the wine), rosemary (keeping the consistency with the rice flavours), some sugar, and some mushrooms, which work to mellow the mix - countering the acidity of the vinegar – and darkening the colour.

While the sauce is reducing to a syrup, we julienne the calamari meat and marinate them with oil, chilis, and whatever else takes our fancy. The tentatcles we set aside for garnish.

Once the stock reduces, we hit it with some fruity red wine, and reduce again, before tossing in the fish and veal stocks we mentioned earlier. Then add the ink. He buys the stuff from the specialty markets, but there’s nothing to stop you from taking it yourself when you clean your fresh squid (nothing beyond a fear of Yoonhi killing me for getting black ink all over the kitchen). Then reduce to about ¾ of the volume, and finish with some cream and some butter to give it thickness and shine.

The ink gives a great look, while remaining a subtle background flavour.

The snapper is seasoned now on the open side (never on the presentation side), and then fried in shallow oil, Paul’s heat resistance fingers holding it down to prevent curling. Again, some rosemary is tossed into the pan to provide that consistent line of flavour. He also adds a bit of butter to give colour to the skin. When the fish is almost done, the tentacles are fried alongside (they go very quick). At the last moment we put the lemon confit on top of the fish skin in the pan.

The rice is taken from the oven and emulsified with some butter and a bit of stock to ensure consistency, and then the julienned calamari is put in the rice to cook.

And now we can plate.

The rice lays down first, then the sauce is “freestyled” around the rice, the fish goes on, and the tentacles go on top of that.

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Which leaves us with [b]quinces poached in spiced wine with chestnut and chocolate mousse


Quinces are one of those fruits that go back a long ways. And, being completely inedible raw, you have to wonder how people figured out that if you cooked them for a few hours, they’d be a nice treat.

The quinces are in for a poaching. First, the spices – cinnamon and star anise – are dry roasted after they’ve had a couple of drops of water on them for a minute or two. Once they’ve opened up (and we can smell it quick well in the front) a serious amount of Pinot Noir (or something else with good fruit) goes in. That cooks away like a merry old Christmas, and the quinces are peeled.

Using the peels in the poach can work well. The pectins will give a nice red colour, but we’re using Pinot Noir, so it hardly matters. We zest in some orange peel.

Once peeled, you’ve got a two hour wait or so, with the quinces submerged in the wine and spices (use a piece of greaseproof paper to keep down), until you reach a point at which the quinces will suddenly go to sponge, and pierce easily.

While you wait for tha happy moment, work up a sabayon for the mousse. We’ll add pureed chestnuts to this, as the chestnuts always go well with bittersweet chocolate.

Some gelatin is put in brandy to soak (I like this dish!), while more brandy is introduced to sugar in a bowl and then the egg yolks are whisked in over the baine marie, again, going for soft peaks and ribbony texture.
And add some whisky.

The mousse needs 24 hours, and the quinces are best soaked overnight, so this is all a day-ahead thing. Luckily for us, all the parts are already prepped.

On the bane marie we warm up our chooolate and add the brandy soaked gelatin, and warm up some cream in another bowl and which up, getting our temperatures aligned.

And add some brandy to the sabayon and warm it, before introducing the sabayon into the chocolate, spooning it in, rolling them together gently. Once that works, get the cream folded in, gently to retain the air.

As a note, using two different chocolates can get some nice textures in this.

As another note, as he struggles to spatula out all of the material, quoting from his own cookbook, “You follow this to get 4 portions. How to you do 4 portions in a restaurant? Four hundred, yeah. Forty, that’s easy. Four?”

From here he pours it into a tupperware to set and puts it in the fridge. He wants to treat it like an ice cream, scooping it out to show the air in the mousse’s texture.

So, we’re ready.

The quince is in the bowl, surrounded by the wine like a soup, and then the mousse is balled out onto the top of it, with a bit of chocolate for appearance.

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Our lunch wines were Penfolds. James Mullen is working with them, and he gave a good intro to the importers, BB&B (Bangkok Beer and Beverages), and was an enthusiastic supporter of the quince dessert, seeing as the recipe called for three to three and a half bottles of red.

The Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is a partially oaked (3 months) Chardonnay, with a very vibrant impact on the palate. A good, light wine to go with the type of cooking we’re seeing here.

The Bin 138, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre is likewise very fruity, but not too strong. It goes well with the fish, and particularly with the ink sauce in the fish dish. It’s also a nice companion for the quince.

The Bin 8 almost got away from us, but our table took notice and called it in. This was a very fruity cab shiraz, and a pleasant wine for us to finish up on.

Good class. And there are a number of people fighting to get the two pre-release copies of Paul’s book Botanical that are on display. I glanced through it, and I liked what I saw. Beyond the photo work of the quality you’d expect, the instructions are clear, and the range of dishes looks particularly interesting. I’m tied down for shipping weight, but I may look for this when I get back to Canada next year.

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As far as the eating goes, excellent. The oyster pannacotta is something I’m going to do when I’m in Vancouver and can get fresh oysters. It was good. Worth setting aside my immediate needs for just wolfing them down. And the ink sauce was very interesting, a flavour far more subtle and attractive than I’d expected.
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The quince? Where am I going to find quince? Still, this recipe would work with pears, too (and be quicker).


Sated, I figured it was time for a swim, and after that, maybe some more writing. Or maybe just a nap.

A nap sounds good.

#54 Domestic Goddess

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 09:47 PM

Peter - if quinces can be mailed, I'll send you a bag. Quinces are falling off the tree outside my apartment as I speak.
Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

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#55 Peter Green

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 09:18 PM

Snow in Bangkok – Dinner with Steven Snow of Fin – Byron Bay – Australia

I’m not certain what I’d been expecting coming into this. I like fish, but I often feel that there’s only so much to be done with them. And so often I’m wrong about this, finding the dishes to be outstanding.

While I have to live with the fact that I’m not a quick learner, there’s a certain benefit to living a life of happy surprises.



Forrest Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2006


Sashimi Tower with Pumpkin Salsa
and Beetroot Reduction
Stonewall, Sauvignon Blanc 2006



Soft Shell Crab in Chilli Tempura with Yuzu Sauce
Xanadu Secession, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc 2005



Piri Piri King Prawns
Xanadu Secession, Chardonnay 2004



Red Emperor
With Mirin, Lime and Tamarind
Xanadu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia 2004



Lemon Myrtle and Ginger Pannacotta
With Sweet Finger Lime Caviar



This was Steven Snow’s second night in Shintaro. I know they’d been working up the wines yesterday, so I was interested in how the pairings would work. They had the wine guys out first, with their agent, Renaud Bancilhon, from Red & White International out of Singapore, did the opening honours for Forrest Estate out of the Marlborough in New Zealand. Not bad, but when you talk New Zealand, you generally talk the Marlborough (and Hawke’s Bay, too….okay, I talk a lot). The white we were sipping now, the Sauvigon Blanc, was about as fresh as you could get, almost pulled off the vines, and made a favourable impression on a room full of hot drinkers. Lots in the nose, and a bit tangy (pomelo-ish? Is anyone using that yet?) They’ve got a holding of about 200 acrews in the Marlborough, with other interests in Hawke’s Bay (yeah!) and Central Otago.

For Xanadu out of the Margaret River in Western Oz they had Glenn Goodall in the house, the winemaker. Like the Marlborough Valley, the Margaret River region puts out some very nice stuff. Xanadu’s right next door to Leeuwen Estates, with 60 hectares of vines. Dr. John Forrest is an interesting man, another happy soul who’s found wine after working for years as a molecular scientist.

As Glenn says, they rely mainly on the purity and quality of their fruit. You don’t have to do much else. You get a rich, opulent Chardonnay, and, given the synergies with Bordeaux’s climate, you get a really full Cabernet (which would be an interesting match with the Red Emperor later). They don’t have a huge area, but they do have a great variety of soils that they can play with, in particular a wealth of Marri loams, the best soil type in W.A., the result of the Marri trees getting their roots into the ground and blossom in the air. Okay, this can cause “bird pressure” as they say - which means things get Hitchcockian at times – but they can always fall back on nets if needs be.

Then it was Steven Snow’s turn up front. Not a shy man, you just like him once he starts talking. He’s having fun doing what he enjoys, which is feeding people. He’s worked his way up from Sydney in the 80’s to South Africa (and its seafood), to Southwest France (where he was promoted to sous chef, which meant he got to spend his mornings in the restaurant’s boat bringing in the goods), and then returned to Australia with an excellent background in seafood. Back to Australia, some time in Sydney, and then up to the North Coast of NSW, coming to rest in Byron Bay (which is a great place to come to rest….especially with a couple of bottles of champagne on the beach….but we were younger then).

His attitude is that it’s “what you don’t do to a fish that makes it good”. I’d read much the same on his web site, and this is what had given me some trepidation. I’ve a Vancouverite’s snobbishness about seafood, and was worried I’d be let down by austere handlings.

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The Sashimi Tower didn’t seem like me to bode well. I’d seen things like this in the past, and they seemed, well, busy. This one was difficult to work with, with circlets of nori separating the tuna, hamachi (?), salmon, and ikura, but once you spilled it over, it was a nice combination. I’m a sucker for salmon eggs (I need salt). The dollop of pumpkin gave a good side taste, with the crunch that ran through it. As Steven had said, he was looking for the beetroot sauce to give some earthiness to the dish, and this worked. Messy, but it worked.

And the Stonewall that was poured was clear as a bell. A nice wine with the flavours we had on the plate, bringing fruit to the palate.

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This dish was the delight of the night! The crab itself was good, hot and crispy, with a brilliant plumb and aioli sauce, but it was the spatzle underneath that I can’t get out of my mind. He’d worked up a mousse from the trimmings of the red snapper used later, with some lemon rind, rice flour, and a spot of cream (if you wanted) and some egg to bind. The trick is to get the noodles into an ice water bath right away, as the chill will get the textrure to the point it had here, where it felt just like an Austrian noodle. Mixed in with shelled edamame, and it was one of my favourite things in the WGF so far.

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The Piri Piri prawns drew on some of his time in Africa, with the Portugese/Mozambique approach. Buttery, and full of flavour, with a good (if not Thai hot) “bite” in the chilis, and a broth that went well with the rice. Good, but I can’t say it did much for me. But I’m not a big fan of prawns on their own.

Before I talk about the fish, I need to mention the Cabernet. It was chilled. My first reaction was that there’d been a cock up somewhere, but then I noticed it was this way for everyone, and maybe there was a plan. I tried a sip, and found a very full “grape juice” in my mouth. Okay, we’d let this run.

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The snapper (“Red Emperor” Down Under) was done just the way I like it, crisped on the presentation side, and then more slowly cooked through from the meat. This was sitting on a “pudding” of twice cooked sushi rice, which gave a feel of, well, rice pudding, a bit of caramelization crusting the top. The tempura of enoki was something I’m going to have to try at home, it was so good, and the kelp was sunimono’d so that the pickle flavour worked against the oil in the fish and tempura. Nice.

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Dessert was the lemon myrtle and ginger pannacotta, with the ginger coming through in strength. The lemon myrtle that he’d picked from his garden to bring along for this was a nice back scent in the dish, and the half moon tuille gave you a nice finishing look.

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And how could we end our meal without some treats?

Steven’s more than happy to talk about his food, and we didn’t have to bully him into talking about how he’d done some of the things we’d had on our plates. The cabernet was planned to be chilled, and now that we’d had more glasses brought out unchilled, I agreed with him that it would’ve been too intimidating for the food to have had it full on. But it was a nice Cab, and we were quite happy to have a few more glasses of it before fading out for the lobby, where we could enjoys some Macalan (the two girls handing out the chits were starting to avoid us, I noticed).


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#56 Peter Green

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 04:07 AM

The last night (saturday), and I'm way behind (posted Wednesday night's dinner today).

As a quick update, Susur's class was very good. I'm racing to get the notes for that written, as he provided no written recipes in the class.

After that it was a tour of Italy, which somehow ended up with a Batasiolo Barolo sitting in front of me, and now it's time to get ready for Roberto Donna from Galileo in Washington, DC.

Risotto with white truffle is the middle dish.

This is going to be a good finish.

#57 Julian Teoh

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 07:45 PM

After being denied eGullet access for almost a month, this was a most pleasant surprise to wake up to. The best morning's reading I've had in a long time.

Home stretch now, Peter, you can do it!
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

#58 Peter Green

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 09:05 PM

Thanks, Julian,

It's officially over now, and I've got a lot of writing to catch up on.

A good finish last night, both at Roberto Donna's dinner, after in the lobby, and after outside catching up (also) with a bowl of rice and stir fried bean sprouts with nampla and chili dressing.

I think I owe everyone Suzanne Tracht now.

Cheers,

Peter

#59 Peter Green

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Posted 16 September 2007 - 04:20 PM

Suzanne Tracht – Jar – Los Angeles

Suzanne’s taking us through a good, solid, cook-this-at-home series. This is probably one of the best classes for a lot of people like me (and most of the rest of the class) who don’t have industrial kitchen equipment about (“pass me the liquid nitrogen, honey”)

The demonstration menu will be

Dungeness Crab
Pomelo, Avocado, Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

Jar’s Signature Pot Roast
Caramelized Onions, Carrots

Banana Cream Pie
Fresh Whipped Cream


Jar is Suzanne’s place. She’s hit that dream of chef’s of having her own restaurant, a modern chophouse in her case, in a great location with a solid, loyal clientele. You can pull that off, you’re doing alright.

She’s assisted by Preech Narkthong, her chef de cuisine, who looks as happy as can be to be back in his hometown of Bangkok.

For wines today we’re going to look at the Rothschild’s, but on their South American side, with

Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay Mapu Chile 2005
Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Chardonnay Maipo Chile 2006
Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere, Mapu Chile 2006
Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2006


Let’s start with the crab.

This setup is a little different for Suzanne. She does a lot of classes and demos in the restaurant, but there it’s more a case of clustering about in the kitchen and eating as you go.

The recipe is about as straightforward as you can get.

1 lb of Dungeness crab meat, boiled and cleaned
1 Pomelo (in LA they’d use the cocktail grapefruits on the market)
2 avocados
1 red onion, medium size
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of scallions
4 to 6 limes for juice (she’s basing this on the California limes, which are bigger)
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup of canola oil
1 tbsp of sambal
1 tsp of sugar
2 drops of nampla (what Thai measures nampla in drops?)

This is a very light salad, very Thai, with the fresh herbs and the sweetness of the pomelo. You don’t get the broken up dispersion of a yam som o (that may be my favourite Thai dish, just thinking of the work to break up a pomelo like they do here, seed by seed, gets me excited).

Most of this is the dressing, really. That’s okay. The lime juice starts it all and some garlic is sliced and added, along with sambal. There’s a bit of confusion at the term sambal, but once it’s explained as crushed up chili salsa, everyone is okay.

Then in go the two drops of nampla, and a bit of canola oil. Canola as she wants this to stay on the light side. There’s some sugar to counter the salt (there were only two drops of nampla, what’s to counter?).

The red onion gets julienned, and she does a quick pass on the pomelo, cutting the wedge lengthwise down the middle, then diagonal slicing into thirds.

The avocado are halved, the pit out, and a simple spoon out, then cut in thin wedges. These line the bottom of the bowl.

The smallest of the mint leaves have been picked off, and these are tossed with the crab meat.

Top the crab and mint on the avocado, garnish with some fresh scallion, and then drizzle the dressing and serve.

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Jar Pot Roast

She starts with a “boned out denuded” short rob, about 3-5 pounds
4 carrots
2 large onions
1 bunch of celery
½ bulb garlic (unpeeled, cut horizontally through the cloves)
1 bay leaf
1 cup sherry
2 quarts chicken stock
½ cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper
cream
and horseradish

This is the sort of meat dish that they’re known for The do a lot of braises, and, as they say, this is their signature dish. But they want to lighten this up, so they’ll go with chicken stock for the braise.

First the meat gets a good seasoning from on high with cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Then this is put into the pan for a searing, to seal in the juices and develop the colour. She’s got chef’s fingers, pressing the meat in with her fingertips. Once coloured up, she pulls the meat from the pan, and checks if there’s too much fat.

In the pan she puts the usual with the beef; carrots, onion, celery, garlic. These sweat for a wee bit, then she deglazed with the sherry, and tossed in a bay leaf.

She lifted the meat back in, on top of the vegetables, and then poured on the chicken stock, not completely covering the meat as this is a braise, not a poach. This’ll now cook for about 3 hours.

Now she does the sides. These are pretty straightforward as well. A couple of nice carrots are cleaned, peeled, stalks left on. She dizzles some evoo on the carrots, seasons them, and then puts them in the oven and leaves them there until you can pierce them.

The onions are cut into rings and then caramelized to a golden brown colour (hopefully sometime this year with this oven).

Now, by the miracle of non-linear time, our working version of the pot roast is ready. It’s removed from the braise, the fluid strained off, and then the fluid and meat brought back together. One caution she has here, let the roast/braise cool down to room temperature before you remove it, to avoid drying out.

Then she taunts us by holding up the most beautiful piece of horseradish. It’s long, and looks to me for all the world like the exaggerated elegance of a Thais dancers fingers. Then she gets sidetracked and never tells us what to do with it.

If it was me, and I think this was her plan, I’d steep the horseradish in cream, and then strain and serve on the pot roast. Now, to be fair I found out later that the cream was put on the table for the roast, but none of us realized that was what it was for. Luckily no one had coffee at our table.

But, back to the meat. This went into a bowl, the onion went on top, the roasted carrots were on the side, and some fresh parsely finished the solids. Then she spooned in the juice, and we were there.
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Suzanne talked a little about the restaurant, located in between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. She’s planning on opening another place next year in Century City, but that’s still in the works. What she has now is working well, seating about 110, and doing a good, traditional trade. People want a chop house, people get a chop house.

And, it’s not surprising, when she goes out to eat with the family, the first thing she said was Korean, so meat is popular. Having said that, after the years of steak followed by the pork belly fad, follwed by foie gras, she figures that we’re going to see vegetables making it to the front of the shop soon.
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Dessert was a Banana Cream Pie, although it didn’t look much like a pie. There wasn’t a lot to this, as I think she was getting spooked about how quiet we all were, and she figured it was hunger. She began by dicing up some beautiful looking bananas, then put these in a bowl. She had some pastry cream (milk, sugar, eggs) already done up, and the pastry dough was already done, too, so it was basically just an issue of here assembling the crust, cooking the bananas in the milk, and then cooling. Slap the cooked solidified cream onto the baked crust (already done), and then top with fresh whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a couple of bits of chocolate. A little disappointing, but by this time, with all the sabayons and desserts we’ve already done, I guess I can beat up an egg.
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The wines were interesting. Thierry was back to talk about what the Rothschilds were up to. I remember when he’d brought out the Chileans a couple of years ago, and the reaction was muted. But these were coming along well now.

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The R’s had established their winery in Maipo in 1997, but they’d been working with Concho y Toro before they went their own way, and still have excellent relationships, the Rothschilds’ 150,000 odd cases not even showing up as a blip on the radar for the massive undertakings of the Concho boys (and girls).

The 2005 Chardonnay was unoaked, clean, fruity, and very ready to be drunk (as I usually am…well, maybe not the fruity part…..or the clean part…..) This was a decision that had raised some eyebrows a few years back, as I recall, but it was working for this. You’d drink it happily on a warm day.

The Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend was very interesting. A 50/50 mix. The Chardonnay lending roundness, the Sauvignon Blanc acidity. Like the straight Chardonnay, they want to get the freshness of the fruit.

They’ve just changed wine makers, so it’ll be interesting to see how the 2007 works out. It should be a reasonable match, as the Baroness is very much a “my way or the highway” sort of leader, and she has clear ideas about what she wants to accomplish. Like the whites we were drinking, this was refreshing. The Rothschilds can take a much longer view of things than the other big wineries, looking beyond the bottom line of this quarter.

They sourcing their grapes from Maipo, the Central Valley, and some from down South, where they get a much cooler climate. And to do this, they’ve had to get the growers to change to their rules, and procedures.

It takes awhile.

Actually, it takes them about 5 to 7 years to establish a wine. That’s covering the time to locate the vineyards with the soils they want, and then to develop that vineyard to a point where they can rely on the quality of the material to match what they want to do.

The Carmenere was a treat. This is a grape that never did well in its native Bordeaux, but had taken off big time in Chile with the different weather and soil. It was pretty much the Merlot of Chile, only differing in a slightly later ripening date, and was only differentiated in the last 5 or 6 years.

And the Cab did what Cabs do, putting out a lot of flavour and good fruit in the nose.

These aren’t the great wines of the Rothschilds, of course. They’re not the big Bordeaux, but then again, with the tax structure in Thailand punishing wines to the point of crminal abuse, there’s not much of a market now. It’s a pity, as Thailand is considered one of the more sophisticated markets. It wasn’t that long ago (a decade) when they were one of the biggest markets for wine in Asia.

Maybe there’ll be a change and we’ll see the big reds back here. We’ve got the Grange this year, so there’s some hope. There’s always hope.

#60 Peter Green

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Posted 17 September 2007 - 04:06 AM

Stairway to Heaven or at least the Mezzanine

Straight out of the class…well, maybe not quite straight. We’d been punishing the remaining bottles of the Rothschilds’ Chileans, and it had sort of kept us occupied a bit….anyways, stumbling back through the lobby, I was just in time for the group photo shoot.

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It’d be hard to miss it. Not only are the pros getting the record down, but the kibitzers like me are thronging as well. Cameras and videos and cell phones (oh, my!).

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So here’s our cast of characters, all in one place. Like every year, it's a good group.

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And here’s some of the details. I should also mention that, just as important as the visiting chefs is the work of Nicholas Schneller, the Four Seasons Bangkok’s Executive Chef; Stephane Calvet the 4S’ Pastry Chef;
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Satoshi Sawada from the Four Seasons’ Shintaro; and Danilo Aiassa from Biscotti. Needless to say my photo work stinks, as I missed getting Malcolm Omond the F&B Manager in any of these, and I’m intensely embarrassed that I missed getting a good shot of Patrizia. I’d blame Nokia, I’d blame the Rothschilds for leaving those wines about, but it is all my fault.

I also wish I'd been better about getting the names down in one place for all of the assisting chefs.

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My ineptitude aside, I really enjoy the staircase shot as it gets everyone out of the kitchens. This is where I get a chance to meet some of the people that have been working on things out of sight for decades. I know the front of the house, the main chefs, and the administration, but, having been a plongeur myself way back when, these are people I admire.

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And then everyone breaks up, some couples shots are taken, and its smiles all around. It’s the smiles after the cameras finish shooting that matter the most.

Next: The Gala