The WGF in Bangkok
Posted 17 September 2007 - 09:52 PM
Sparkling Wines &
Senorio De Alange Pardina, Spain, 2004
Douglas Rodriguez, Roberto Donna, and Michael Ginor
Patrizia Di Benedetto
Tuna Fillet in Pistachio Crust and Marsala Sauce
Sauvignon Blanc, Sunshine Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand 2005
The Norway Lobster
Chardonnay, Terrazas de los Andes Reserva, Argentina 2006
Red Emperor with Mirin, Lime and Tamarind
Cabernet Sauvignon, Xanadu, Margaret River, Australia 2004
Marinated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart
Mint, Coconut, and Confit Lemon Chutney
Amarone, Campo dei Gigli Tenuta, Sant’ Antonio, Italy 2000
Jar’s Signature Pot Roast
Caramelized Onion, Horseradish Cream
Cabernet Sauvignon Premier Cuvee, StG, Sonoma County, California
Escudo Rojo Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Chile 2003
Roasted Blackmore Matsuzaka Wagyu Sirloin and Braised Brisket
With Bordelaise Sauce, Celeriac, and Truffles
Bin 8 Cabernet/Shiraz, Penfolds, Australia 2004
Noa Sicilia IGT, Cusumano, Italy 2004
Deconstructed Mango Cheese Cake
Roasted Banana and Guanaja Chocolate Pudding Cake
Valrhona Petits Fours
Jura Aged 10 years, Single Malt Whiskey, Scotland
In order to get from the main lobby of the Four Seasons to the Ballroom, it is necessary for one to walk through the most tasteful of outdoor passages, past lush vegetation and milling carp in the waters about youl. This tasteful outdoor passage is not airconditioned (there are limits) and I was in a tuxedo.
I try to use my weeks at the WGF to further my knowledge of the important things in life. One of these important things is knowing where the coldest part of the reception area in front of the ballroom is. I found my usual spot and settled on a glass of sparkling. A little sweet. Some of my friends were about, working the hall and catching up, but I held firm.
Then somebody wanted to take pictures.
Outside we go, looking for a posing spot. Then back inside. Then we take the pictures.
I’d been doing fairly well up to then.
But once in the ballroom, with the 220 or so of us dispersed to our tables, things weren’t a problem. We sat at table number 1, my party of visitors and I, with a nice family in seafood export and their friend, a veterninarian working with the government on food inspection issues.
They’d gone with a green motif this year, giving a fairly soothing, submarine feel to things. The room looked far different from the collection of naked chairs and boxes that I’d observed the day before when I was taken through for a tour of the setup.
The first wine was good, fresh, just as you’d expect from a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed this while Patrick Ghielmetti said a few words, reminding us that the purpose of all of this was in support of Princess Soamsawali’s charity Save A Child’s Life From Aids Project, run with the Thai Red Cross, which works to provide HIV drugs for pregnant mothers, in a bid to protect their children.
He also, quite properly, thanked his team. The Four Seasons has done very well, and Isidore Sharp, the founder and sitting with us tonight, must be quite proud of what he’s created.
Many of the courses were reprises of things done in the dinners. Same, same, but different.
In the case of the tuna, I was quite happy. Tonight the crust was more alive, and the Marsala sauce definitely had more flavour to it. I was content to the extent that I didn’t even get a good shot of this, the first dish.
The lobster, served with the Argentinian, was quite different. The crust of mushroom tartare and “rice cream” was harder, crisper, and felt more precise than what we had had for dinner earlier.
The Red Emperor was, again, excellent, and the twice cooked sushi rice underneath took rave reviews from the young Korean sitting next to me. The Xanadu with this wasn’t as chilled down as it had been at dinner, and you could feel it trying to muscle up on the wine, but it still worked.
The next wine and the next course were my favourites. Susur Lee’s lamb, marinated in an Indian fashion and served with three dollops of sauce and a little tart of onions. Of the sauces, there was one with carrot, chili, and coconute that really caught my attention. There was also a paper thin slice of something dried, and we were trying to figure it out. I thought maybe lotus root, but it was pineapple.
The wine, the Amarone, was what I was looking for. Something I could nuzzle my nose into and go asleep. We’d railed a bit against “hot” wines earlier in the Fest, and this was a high-alcohol wine, but that does give you something that’ll reach in and yank your nose hairs like this one did.
Maybe that’s not the most elegant of analogies?.......
After the lamb, the beef. Or rather the first of the beefs.
Suzanne’s pot roast pulled apart as you dug into it with your fork, and, having the horseradish cream made a world of difference to the flavours. I’m doing more creams with my braises when I get home.
The Sonoma was a good Cab, and neither distracted nor submitted to the pot roast, but I felt a general preference for the Escudo, with the Syrah and the Carmenere in there.
Now, as you may have noted, a couple of courses ago we hit the Wall of Meat. Up to now, it had been a fairly easy climb, but now we hit the overhang. A plate of roasted Wagyu, braised brisket, a dollop of celeriac and truffles, and, just to take things way over the top, a bit of marrow.
I noticed some of my dinner companions were starting to flag.
I called for a spoon for my marrow and went for it. I was so much in the midst of the marrow feast (“you gonna eat that?”) that I can’t really recall much about the Penfolds and Cusumano, other than that they were wet and red (which would be a great title for a band).
The auction went well, with all of the packages drawing some bidding. Gone are the days when I would find myself buying a package just because I wanted to get the bidding started (but it was a very good package). I did try to get some (the Mercedes again, the four days in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), but people were in a good mood, and I know that Yoonhi’s patience will only be tested so many times before I find myself short a body part or two.
We “lightened up” after this with Katrina’s deconstructed mango cheesecake. This was okay, but it’s hard to do justice to dishes like this after fighting our way over that precipice of protein.
Likewise Nicole’s roasted banana and Valrhona Guanaja chocolate pudding was very good, but it was getting hard to focus. I had them pour me a triple of the Isle of Jura’s excellent 10 year old, and went out to work the room, catching up with some of my friends (one of whom I’ll hopefully meet up with in Seoul in October).
When I came back to the table I found it cleared, so I’d missed out on Stephane Calvet’s Petits Fours. A pity, as Stephane, the Four Seasons’ pastry chef, really does a very good job at these sorts of things.
What were the highlights? The Amarone. The lamb. The bright green-ness of the pistachios in the crust of the tuna. The barbarity of the marrow, and the clarity of the truffles and celeriac. The soft tang of the horseradish cream…….
I was feeling quite primed at this point, if “primed” means a state simlar to that of Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life. I parted for the lobby before I found myself in my usual state of being the last one out of the room. At the lobby I opted for the better part of valour, and just went up to the room and laid down.
That felt good.
Posted 18 September 2007 - 07:53 PM
This was going to be a busy day.
It began at breakfast as I was catching up on notes over my usual ten cups of hightest coffee. I was joined by one of the couples traveling with me. She woke up this morning to her husband’s comments of “You smell like Cabernet”. Luckily, he immediately followed this with “That’s a good thing!”
This will brand me as a heretic in this part of the world, but I am not a big fan of rice porridge for breakfast. Call it khao tom in Thai, or juk in Korean (yeah, my spelling is probably wrong) but it doesn’t thrill me. Sorry.
However, my Korean friend put together one of the prettiest bowls, using fresh sping onion and dried sardines. It was so cheerful looking it helped clear her headache. I had to at least take a picture.
I was losing this couple today. They would be heading for the airport at lunchtime for the flight back, happily fed (even if nursing a slight headache). Me, I was on the run for the whole day.
Posted 18 September 2007 - 08:31 PM
First up in the day for those of us remaining was Katrina Kanetani’s class. With husband Karl along the two of them were ready for most any questions we might field, as Karl is the sous chef over at Este, while Katrina is from The Pier, both restaurants under the Doyle brothers, Peter and Greg. Este does red meats, and French/Australian dishes, while the Pier does some of the best seafood there is.
For the class, we’ll work through
Valrhona chocolate pave
Passion Fruit Madeleines
Also, as we must be fed, we’d be having
Canadian lobster claw
Slow cooked salmon
But both of these seafood dishes were coming from the Four Seasons’ side.
Before getting too stuck into it, we talked chocolate. Valrhona chocolate. I’ve yet to meet a dessert chef who doesn’t love Valrhona chocolate. It’s also important that every one of them has their own particular one that they prefer for nibbling. Katrina had sacks of them with her today; a 61% extra bitter; Caraibe at 66%; Guanaja at 70%; (the first of Valrhona’s Grand Cru chocolates) Venezualan Araguani at 72%; and Manjari from Madagascar at 64%. Valrhona (whom I talked more about last year, earlier in the thread) is the Grand Cru for chocolates, and take the business as seriously as their wine making neighbors.
The little balls in the husk are a new Valrhona product – chocolate chilis. Not really a bite, but very, very edible.
Valrhona Chocolate Pave
For the pave (“brick” to describe the shape) we’ll use two chocolates; the Guanaja and the Araguani.
The pave will sit upon a chocolate genoise (sponge), which will have to be made and put to set in a mold first. For this we drop in 5 whole eggs into 1 cup of sugar in a bowl, and beat it over a bain marie, looking for it to be heated to about the halfway cooked stage, beating it to a pale white, fluffy stage (sort of like me). She’s a little nervous that she doesn’t have her thermometers, but says we’re looking for about 40 centigrade.
Cocoa and flour are sifted together three times to get a good, aired mix. This is done over parchment paper to make it easy to funnel back. And while this is going on, Karl’s got some butter melting to go into the genoise.
Then the mix goes into the blender, and it gets worked over at high speed with the whisk attachment for about ten minutes (about triple in volume). Then the clarified butter is folded in, the spatula working around then cutting through, around and cutting through. With your four arms (it’s good to do this with a friend) you sift the flour/cocoa into the bowl, and gradually mix. They sift in in three passes, working to avoid lumps. The halfway cooking has allowed the eggs to come to a point where they provide enough rigidity to carry the structure.
We’re missing a prepped cake tin (buttered and floured) so she improvises with a tray lined with parchment paper folded in. Then it’s into the oven at 200 for about 25 minutes. You can use the finger press to check for when it’s done, looking for it to pop back up and just be pulling away from the sides. And remember, like meat, that the residual heat after you remove it from the oven will continue to cook through.
For the pave we’ve already got the chopped up chocolates into the double broiler, melting down, taking care that we don’t get a bloom, when the cocoa butter comes out in white streaks. Tempering (heating, cooling, heating) will avoid this, working to strengthen the internal bonds in the material. The melt temperature here is about 45 centigrade, a little warmer than blood. Again, without her thermometers she’s a little nervous, but the easy, traditional check is for a pastry chef to smear a little of the mix on her lips. This’ll tell you if it’s hot enough yet. It also explains why pastry chefs are often found around the kitchen with chocolate all over their faces like six year olds…..wait a second, wasn’t she talking earlier about always nibbling on chocolates while at work? This could just be the uncovering of a massive pastry chef conspiracy!
Anyways, once it’s ready you remove it from the bath and let it set on the side.
We’re going for an Italian meringue here, with hot sugar cooking the egg whites (as opposed to a French meringue, where the egg white is beaten and then powdered sugar is sifted in). For this we’ve been working the sugar syrup up (lots of sugar -250gm – to 83ml of water). As the sugar melts, you need to be careful to work down any sugar that’s crystallizing on the sides of the pot. You can use a wet pastry brush, or if you have asbestos fingers like Katrina (I don’t feel much in my fingertips anymore) you can just wash it down with those (“don’t do this at home”). We want to get this to soft ball, rather than hardball. One check is in the bubbling rate, and the other check is by tossing a bit into a glass of cold water. It’ll form a ball, and you can check with your fingers (if you have feeling left in them after attempting the hand wash) if it’s the soft consistency, or if it’s gone hard.
While that was happening, eggs have been beaten – 5 yolks and 2 whole eggs – down to the ribbon stage. Do this over a bowl of hot water to get the right volume for the sabayon. When it’s ready, and the sugar is ready, introduce the sugar syrup into the working blender in a slow steady stream, and keep blending to cool. The stream needs to go down the edge of the bowl, and avoid hitting the top of the whisk, otherwise you’re not going to get the volume you need. And you need a good spatula to get all the sugar out of the bowl. Any sugar you leave behind is going to get you out of spec with the recipe, and pastry chefs live by their measures.
In another stainless steel bowl (note to self, buy more steel bowls), we prep the cream to nice, soft peaks (and no further). This should be room temperature, so we can match the temperatures to get consistency.
Now get a bigger steel bowl (note to self, write more notes to self) ready, and in a small steel bowl fold in the melted chocolate into half the sabayon mix, then combine the rest of the sabayon, working it with a good spatula to combine. When that’s combined (and your temperature should be dead on, now) take a new, clean spatula and fold in the cream.
The “new, clean spatula” part is something that Gordon Ramsay beat into her when she worked for him. This is the one tried and true way to avoid getting lumps (in your pave, if not from Chef Ramsay).
To assemble the cake we take a ring and punch through our pad of cake to get the base. Normally we’d use a brush to soak the sponge a little with a syrup of Kahlua (or whatever) and sugar – it is a sponge. Then, with our base in place, we add in the pave and smooth the top off with a warmed pallette knife. Put this puppy in the fridge, and let it set for a few hours or overnight.
Plated, they have some very tart currants to put on the side (and more chocolate on top).
Then the conversation turns to Gordon Ramsay, and the benefits of kitchen discipline. The top chefs “may be crazy, but this is how you get true professionalism in the kitchen”. Karl has his say here, and you have to agree with him; coming to a restaurant, you expect consistency. You aren’t paying so you can worry about if the kitchen is having a good day or a bad day, you want the flavours and tastes to be the same regardless. That’s why, with a great restaurant, you shouldn’t worry if the headliner chef is there that night or not. He should have a team disciplined enough to follow his plan to the letter.
Of course, as Katrina says, this creates a lot of stress when working. But it has its rewards, “like eating chocolate cake every morning.”
And while this is going on, I should point out, they’ve had plates of chocolates going around the room, letting us try the differences in the percentages. I’d agree with her, the Manjari would propably be my favourite for a nibble.
Then we do some Madeleines – the famous French Petit Four, named as a parting gift for a lady.
Not too much to this. First you reduce some passionfruit in a small owl. You want to take about 30ml of juiced passion fruit (or any juice) down to 10ml to concentrate the flavour. This small an amount will get you the flavour you want without altering the proportions in the recipe. And let this cool.
Honey (1 tsp) and butter (80 gm) are melted together now. At this stage, other flavours can be introduced - kaffir lime leaf, a tsp of instant coffee with a couple of drops of water, etc. If you were going to swap out honey, then use Moscado sugar. Someone asked about molasses, but this would be too heavy a flavour. Let this cool.
Whisk together the eggs (2 whole) and sugar (85gm Caster) until you get a pale mix, then sieve in some almond meal (25gm), and flour (80 gm), and baking powder (1/2 tsp). Add the cooled butter/honey mix, and then the passion fruit reduction (also cooled). Let the batter sit around for a few hours (or overnight) before using it. Really, Madeleines are best right out of the oven, so you want to be ready way ahead of time if you’re doing this for friends.
So, when it’s getting to be time, stand a piping bag in a glass to be filled up, and then fill the little molds (buttered) about ¾ of the way. A good Madeleine, when it’s done, should have a characteristic bump on the top. Bake at 180 centigrade.
As we said, these are best straight out of the oven. Roll them in some icing sugar and serve them with coffee or tea while the middles are still warm.
We chat for a bit. Katrina and Karl are good at getting the audience out of their shells. She’ll have a new cookbook out soon, or rather The Pier will, and she’ll be doing the dessert recipes.
The Pier is doing great seafood, but much of it isn’t just the recipes, but the attention to how the fish are treated. Their doing a line catch, and an ikijimi kill, which sees a wire introduced to the spine of the fish, which “doesn’t quite kill it, but it does” putting it into a coma. This way the line catch doesn’t give you the thrashing damage of fish in nets, and the wire avoids the muscle stress of fish in distress. I wasn’t aware, but when you see a rainbow colour on your tuna, this is a sign of it having been under stress at the time of death. (I would be too).
Este, where Karl is working, is, as we said, more of a traditionally red meat place. They’ve got, as he says, the most beautiful room. The property came into the Doyle’s possession after an arson, and in rebuilding the place as a boutique hotel, they kept a lot of the burnt timber in the design of the restaurant.
I was also curious about Kartina’s take on working St. Lucia. This caught her out, as no one ever asks. Me, I’m just looking for a reason to visit. It sounds like the island is as beautiful as I’ve heard, but you really have to have a lot of recipes for bananas if you’re looking for indigenous recipes.
The lobster and salmon were excellent (pointing out that the Four Seasons can do well on their own, too), with the salmon in particular having a great, soft flavour. Not a Pacific Spring, of course, but the technique made up in part for that.
The madeleines took a mixed review. It’s a very simple thing, and goes well with chocolate, but I think are palates are jaded from heavy chocolates and don’t appreciate something as light as this.
Of course that means that we loved the pave. Nothing like a good old chocolate flavoured brick.
No wines with lunch, but that actually felt like a good thing, with the excesses of the last few days debauchery slowly taking their toll.
Posted 20 September 2007 - 02:59 AM
The Italian Sommeliers Association, or rather, Associazione Italiana Sommelier, part of the Worldwide Sommelier Association, founded in 1965.
Things were off to a rocky start. Our teacher, Signor Roberto Bellini, from Florence, did not look happy. An unhappy Italian is never a good sign.
It was an odd beginning. It felt like he wasn’t really certain of what he should be doing here. But there was a plan, and there was a powerpoint. If you have a plan nowadays, you have to have a powerpoint. In the first half, he covered the basics of a sommelier’s profession, his role in life, the universe, everything. What we were getting was a resume, as the proper course is a two week affair, lasting all day. Later I was to learn that his primary role in being in Bangkok was to conduct a sommelier’s course for several of the hotels, condensing the two weeks into a very intensive 5 days. This is something Thailand needs. While the country is (even with the abusive taxes) a sophisticated market for wines, the handling of the wines is often a travesty.
The odd thing is, that’s not really as big a concern for the people who are bringing in Signor Bellini. The big hotels can generally train their staff well (or excellently, in the case of my favourite spots) as their senior staff in F&B all have good backgrounds for this sort of thing.
No, it’s precisely the independent restaurants that need this. I watched in awe just last night (stepping out of the time line here) as a very earnest young lady attacked a bottle’s neck in much the manner you’d expect she’d take care of her cheating husband. That it was a red didn’t help.
I’m digressing again, aren’t I?
Signor Bellini apologized for his English, and relied in the beginning upon the services of a very gracious (and pretty – I’m still allowed to say such things) young lady who handled some of the translation. I’d suggest that she was Italian herself, but I usually get this wrong.
Anyways, back to the Associazione. They’re young to this business, as the “science” of wine tasting had already been established in 1950, so at this we were some 15 years late. (Now, if this was the south of Italy, that would be considered “on-time”).
Still, late or not, this is an important date for Italy. The formazione di deustatori professsionisti. The profession of a taster, something to aspire to for me.
The association has threee levels to the course. In the first, it’s a matter of “the role himself”. The grapes, the oenology, the tasting of wines.
The second level deals more with establishing a general background in the two major types of wine – Italian and “World” wines. (What! That covers everything I should think). To this end you’re sampling 3 different wines every session.
The third level, which I would be very interested in, covers the matter of food and wine matching – that critical ability of a good sommelier to establish which food would go well with which wine (I have priorities).
Of course, the most interesting part is the graduation, at which point you have one very loud party and drink heavily.
I do like the Italians. A lot.
People come to the Associazione for training for a number of reasons.
- A sommelier should be able to conduct wine tastings for the public, to spread the faith.
- A sommelier should also visit the wine districts and so improve both his tasting abilities, and to help in improving the knowledge of local wines.
- A sommelier should conduct cellar organization.
- A sommelier should participate in international events, and be prepared to speak at them.
- A sommelier should take part in international trade fairs, promoting the products of the grape.
- And a sommelier should be able to act as a journelist.
Signor Bellini was warming up at this point.
This is the description of a professional’s duties. Beyond this, the heart of a profession is to give yourself over to “the call”, and to undertake it body and soul. The aim is to cultivate yourself – to perfect the skill of how to be polite, elegant, and gracious. To know perfectly how to serve and treat a guest, how to bring them into the grand world of wine and technical knowledge.
We then talked about the Cellar, that wonderful place where the wine rests in tranquility, like Sleeping Beauty, or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. There are no noises, no vibrations, and, sadly, no other food stuffs that might contaminate the flavours of the wine…..pity. There, in the darkness and the chill (11 to 15 centigrade, 65 to 75% humidity) the wine will rest…..maybe this is more like Dracula?
The whites take the lower bunk, and the reds the higher. This takes advantage of the temperature gradient that falls off sharply from the cool floors. And as the wines rest, they do so uniformly, with the labels up, so that should decanting be necessary, the position of the sediment is known.
What are the tools that the sommelier needs?
- cavatappi – opener
- pinzo – stopper (I’m not 100% sure on my spelling there from my notes)
- cestello – spittoon (I carry one with me, don’t you?)
- decanter – decanter (we had to work hard on the translation for that one)
- termometro – thermometer (okay, this wasn’t as tough as decanter)
For proper temperature the wines have different requirements.
A champagne, or sparkling would be served between 6 and 8 centigrade. The bucket should contain ½ ice and ½ water. And champagnes should rest in the bath for 40 minutes before serving.
A white or rose is slightly different. Here the bath should be 2/3 water and 1/3 ice. The temperature would be slightly warmer, at between 9 and 12 centigrade. And red should be 18 to 19 centigrade.
An issue with the reds of course, is that it’s often said to serve them at room temperature, but the issue is “which room”. That room in Bangkok will be quite different from the one in Lombardy.
To serve, the wine is first announced to the guest. First, of course, you wait for him to allow you to present. It is presented on his left side, and the name, classification, year, and name of producer are called out. The label is presented to the customer as you do this. With his assent, you may now open the wine.
To open, you should have all of your tools prepared on the service table, which is kept to the front of the customer’s table. Thereupon (ideally thereupon involving starched white linen) you should have ready 2 small plates, 1 knapkin, and 1 glass for tasting. Again, as you open, the label faces the customer. The foil is cut with a straight horizontal cut under the ring, quickly and with efficiency. Then the foil is removed, and placed upon the plate (“not in your pocket!”).
Then you clean the top of the bottle of cork with your napkin before proceeding. Then fold the napking perfectly, and place it to your right.
Now, enter the opener into the cork, and extract the cork ¾ of the way. Use the napking to grasp the cork and make the final removal. The hand of the sommelier should never touch the cork.
Then smell the cork on the contact zone, and upon the side. “When the cork smells of wine, the wine doesn’t smell of cork”. Then place the cork on the second plate.
Place a small amount in the tasting glass, smell the wine in the glass, and taste. If acceptable, the customer may check the cork.
If accepted, the sommelier will serve the wine first to the person who has ordered the wine. A small quantity is poured, and then the sommelier waits for the customer’s approval. Then the wine may be served.
A change has occurred in pouring etiquette. Before the body of the bottle was held during pouring. This has now been modified for practical purposes to allow the sommelier to grasp the butt, instead. We say practical, as this allows him to extend his reach upon the table and so avoid intruding too closely upon the customers.
This is the service for a young wine.
Should you have an older wine, then decanting is necessary to avoid the sediments. To this end you require:
- 2 napkins
- a holder for the wine that will keep it at an angle
- a candle
- a carafe
- and all of the other stuff.
I wondered what the name was for the apparatus that held the bottle, a “bread basket for wine” from the French was what we could come up with, but we hit a mental block on the Italian name. “If I remember the French name I’ll remember the Italian”.
Our purpose is to ensure that none of the sediment makes it into the decanter. To this end the angle of repose of the bottle should be 30 to 35 degrees.
First, pass some wine into the decanter and dispose, so that the decanter is of the wine. Then pour the rest of the wine into the decanter with the candle acting as a back light to allow you to catch the first hint of sediments. No screens are used, as these would harm the wine. (But in ports fine screens are used).
To tell if you need to decant, you must know the wine. There are no strict guidelines of how many years. The service itself is the same.
There are some guidelines on the shapes of the decanters, but this is not something held to with great consistency. There is one shape for the very aged, there is another for sherries, ports, and massalas, and then there is everything in between, depending upon your mood.
For a sparkling, remove the foil as you would in the normal service, use your left hand to grip the neck, and secure the cork with your thumb. Hold the bottle at a 35 degree angle and open. No theatrics, no shooting corks.
Now the sommelier can smell the cork without the napkin. You make a very rapid analysis (as nobody wants to wait for champagne), place the cork on the plate, and pour, with your left hand on the butt.
I asked about the shapes of the glasses used. These were quite detailed, but the reasoning really comes down to the profile you allow for oxygen to enter the wine.
We followed this with a tasting of four wines; a Valpaia Chianti Classico 2003; an Edizion Cinze 2006; the Amarone we’d had at the Gala dinner; and a Prosecco.
We begin with the Prosecco as an example of the handling of a sparkling (interestingly enough, the Prosecco was the basis for the Bellini cocktail. I should email him and ask if there is any relationship). He opens this as described with a threatening sideways look at the waiter beside him, and it comes open with a hiss. Then he points out the elasticity in the cork. This wine carries a hint of white flowers, pear (which it must have, otherwise it is not good), and a floral, fruity feel. This is a wine you drink year by year. Now, the prosecco is a grape variety, not a DOC, and as such is a table wine.
The Chianti is all Sangiovese grapes, and gives us a good example of the wine, although this year was not a very good one, 2003 being one of the hottest years this century. In fact, we were lucky in that the first bottle opened was bad, and we had a chance to note what to look for in terms of a “corked” wine.
Effectively, it was dead. There was nothing in the nose, and the wine had a taste like prune juice.
Signor Bellini checks all of the wines with short, panicky sniffings of the corks, and loud, chomping tastings, which are removed to the spittoon.
The Edizione, a blend of primitivo, montevi, sangiovese, negronero, and malvasia is a table wine. As Signor Bellini says “a good spaghetti wine”. The grapes could come from just about anywhere. This one comes with tones of cassis, blackcherry, vanilla, cloves, and anise – created to be a soft wine that will be drank immediately.
The Amarone is an older wine, and is hotter, at 16% alcohol. In fact, it is one of the booziest wines in Italy. This probably explains some of the impact it had on us at the table. The wine is famous for dried fruits.
We slowly broke up from this, but I took the opportunity to ask about the Associazione’s new listing of restaurants. It appears that this is the first year of such a guide, and it has been put together from the recommendations of association members. They’ll look at this for next year, possibly changing the manner in which it is done, and will include it with the Italian Wine Guide.
And so, rather loudly, we broke up from class. A rough start, but it finished well.
Posted 20 September 2007 - 06:07 PM
I took a break from the Executive Club (I’ve got a lot of pictures from there I’ll need to post soon, but I’m falling behind) and cut down to Aqua in the courtyard to check out the Russians. While Russian Standard was not technically part of the WGF, they were running a promotion in the lobby. I wanted to drop by as I’d been told that there would be someone who could talk about the vodka with me.
I like Russian Standard. When we were in Moscow last year, it was the vodka of choice for most of the restaurants we were at, and generally preferred by our (very large) drivers, who were loaned to us by our friends there to get us from A to B (or their Cyrrilic equivalents) It’s smooth, no back aromas (like the old school pencil erasers I pick up on some vodkas) and generally guaranteed to get you into a lot of trouble. My preference would still be Kauffmans’ but that’s not something that you can get ahold of that easily. Now, Russian Standard is one of their products, and is a good vodka. But now they’re pushing Imperia as the “top end premium” and I was interested to see what’s what.
As I waited, I enjoyed a couple of martinis. Again, the quality of the vodka comes through. Malcolm, the F&B Manager for the Four Seasons was kind enough to roust me up one their press kits (with a mini of vodka inside). It has some of the details of the company, and some good material on vodka overall.
For instance, I was not aware until now that Dimitri Mendeleev, the man we all know as the founder of the periodic table of the elements, was the one who, in 1894, set the standards for the distillation of vodka.
And what are those standards?
- the mash has to be wheat based
- there have to be multiple distillations for purity
- to be blended with soft water (glacial)
- 40% ABV for “perfect balance” (and to keep your eyesight)
- Charcoal filtration for removal of any remaining impurities
The brand (Russian Standard) was launched in 1998 In 2006 these guys opened up their own distillery in St. Petersburg. Importantly, they also secured the entire process chain for their vodka, so they’re the only Russian producer with control over the entire product.
So now I know. The name Russian Standard is not a strident cry of nationalism about the country’s colours (well, these guys are pretty strident) but rather an adherence to the old regulations on how to make vodka.
Russian Standard is distilled 4 times and run through adctivated charcoal 4 times. They run Imperia through 8 passes of distillation and then do two filters through charged quartz crystals and two filters through activated charcoal. Then they dilute from 94.6% to 40% with glacial water from Lake Ladoga.
They’ve had the Swiss run gas chromatography tests (these guys are thorough) and have some pretty impressive claims about the purity of their vodka against the other major brands.
There is some nationalism in their material, but it’s understandable. Roustam Tariko, the founder, had built himself up through the rough years by securing distribution networks for imported luxury products. In 1998, you couldn’t get a premium vodka in Russia. You could get a good $5 bottle that would give your liver a workout, but for good vodka you’d have to go for the imports. It just seemed wrong. It’d be like Scotland without single malts. Mexico without Tequila. The US without bourbon. England without gin. Korea without soju…..maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing (ouch, that’s going to get me in trouble).
I try a shot of the Imperia. It is very smooth, with almost no back tastes. A hint of wheat – maybe – but it’s hard to pick out (especially as this stuff has been distilled 8 times). I would think the tanks would boil dry on the 5th going for 94.5% In a martini it came across well, very clear, with nothing distracting from the hint of vermouth and the three olives. The press kit that I was given includes a 33 cl of Imperia, so I’ll try and do a taste test later while I can.
Unfortunately, I run out of time. I’d like to talk with them directly, but there’s a dinner with Susur Lee that I don’t want to miss.
Posted 20 September 2007 - 09:23 PM
Domaine Famille Ligneres, La Baronne Rose 2005
Marinated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart
Mint, Coconut, and Confit Lemon Chutney
Domaine Famille Ligneres, Aric 2002
Seared Foie Gras
With Duck Confit Roll and Spiced Nut, Berry Glazed and Black Currents
Varite La Muse 2003
With Tempura Phi Phi Lobster and Salted Duck Eggs
Domaine Famille Ligneres, Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004
Shrimps with Chiang Mai Sausage, Pomelo and Yuzu
Domaine Famille Ligneres, Le Signal 2003
Hot and Sour Consomme
Mountain Potato and Crab Meat
Domaine Famille Ligneres, Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004
Melted Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Banana and Jack Fruit
Coriander Infused Milk Chocolate Mousse
Susur Lee had made an impact at the Gala with his lamb, and so I was looking forward to this dinner. And Shintaro is a good spot to do it in. Small, so the chefs aren’t too stretched in covering all the seatings. And so cozy enough that I can flit between the tables and check up on how my friends are enjoying the meal. Of course, that level of cozy means that someone my size is going to block the traffic like a chunk of cholesterol in an artery……
I had a sip of the rose that I’d caught on the fly coming back from the Russians in Aqua. I was running fashionably late, but this is Thailand. I could blame the traffic. I joined my table just as we received the bruschetta prepared and presented as mini-pizzas.
They poured the Aric, named for Alaric, the great Visigoth who plundered Rome. The family Lignerese, from Languedoc-Roussillon. I wish that the Kendall-Jackson rep was here, as I’m uncertain of the connection now between them and Domain Famille Ligneres. Famille Lingeres has been a family owned operation, and are well regarded. The aric is a blend of Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah. A good nose, and a flavour of dark cherries.
Plus, the labeling is really cool. I like the runic lettering they use (darned if I know the proper name for that script).
And the wine was a good match for the meat. We started heavy and went light. The lamb was up first, which is a great place for it, as it allowed us to study it in more detail, and to try and break down the trio of sauces that came with it. The coconut was the tough one for us. It was a chutney of carrot, chili, and coconut. I’ll talk a bit more about it in the cooking class tomorrow.
And after the lamb we stayed heavy with the seared foie gras. A solid piece of duck, and set off by the berry and currants sauce. But I really liked the duck confi, the meat rolled up in a nice crepe.
With that they’d poured the Varite La Muse 2003, an American (Sonoma) merlot (mainly). Parker thought well of the 2002, but did note that it needed to wait until 2008. This one, the 2003, he gave one point less to (93 points) but did say it was perfectly fine to drink now. I took his advice and drank it.
The we moved back across the Atlantic (or the long way around the Pacific and Asia) to France and the Domaine Famille Ligneres Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004. A crisp Bordeaux Blanc, a blend of mainly Sauvignon Blanc, and some Semillon. It cleaned the light oil from the tempura of lobster quite well, and then the gazpacho made a nice hit of clearing flavours and crunch (the sachet was some lime).
The shrimp was a delight. I’m honestly not a big fan of shrimp, but I love sausages. And sai eua, the Chiang Mai herbed sausages, are amongst my favourites (up there with Korean offal soondae).
I really admired this dish and the images it evokes. The prawn curls about the sausage, nestles the lump to its bosom (prawns don’t have bosoms, I suppose. That’s a mammal thing) and then they fling themselves together into the boiling oil.
I restrained myself from sipping the finger bowl, and paid attention to the wine, again a Domaine Famille Lingeres, Le Signal 2003. This time a red, a Carignan , Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre blend. This falls under their estate wines, and was named for the horn on the old barreled delivery truck they used in the 20’s. This I could drink quite a lot of.
And then we finished the meal with the soup, a hot and sour consommé. Light, refreshing, holding enough of the signature elements of a hot and sour, but none of the heaviness.
After that, dessert, which I sadly admit I paid only limited attention to as I was busy being the social butterfly and paying my respects at the tables.
The dinner went well. Of the chefs, I must say that Susur was the only one I saw going into the flavours of Thailand, beyond, of course, the normal frontliners of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.
Now, if someone would start doing things with the fermented pink sausage, nehm……
I did manage to shoot the petit fours, so let me end on that.
Posted 22 September 2007 - 06:25 PM
For some reason, today’s recipes came out without any notes. The bio, the strident pose, but no notes. One of my friends had brought his book, and we’d looked over the history in that. There are separate threads about Susur, so I won’t go into too much on his background. Susur is a Canadian, and like so many of us was born somewhere else. In his case Hong Kong, where he apprenticed at the Peninsula. Then he moved to Toronto in ’77, and opened Café Lotus in ’87, a 45 seat restaurant with 3 cooks. The book goes into some detail on how he put the place together, quite literally, designing and building a lot of it.
In the late 90’s he took up a position with Tung Lok, setting up Club Chinois in Singapore, which got him a solid fan club there. That fan club took a little while, as Tung Lok had brought him in to “consult” and put things straight, and as he says, when you try to “put straight” a bbq chef who’s been working in his trade for 30 years…well….it’s a good way to almost get killed. But by the second year things were going very well, and, like I say, he’s got a solid following there. When I was in Singapore for the WGS last year I just missed Susur, but his name was the talk of a lot of the folks I was dining with. That’s part of what had had me so primed for his meals.
In 2000 he was back in Toronto and opened Susur, and then opened Lee in 2004. He’s been a big part of the movement we saw in part of in Shanghai, where Chinese cuisine is being brought away from family style dining and driven more in a European serving style.
So, without ado, let’s fill in those blanks in the cooking notes.
Susur is working today with Khun Piched up front, and his own sous chef, Dusty Gallagher, doing the behind-the-scenes work. Kendall Jackson is providing two wines, care of the California Wine Company. These are from the Collage line, a Semillon (55%) Chardonnay (45%), and a Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) Merlot (20%), which are following the Australian style in blending.
For knives, he’s using a kasumi and an F.A. Porsche. I’m not certain the make on the third.
Marintated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart
Mint, Coconut and Confit Lemon Chutney
Up front, with his meez, he’s got a plate of pre-fried crispy herbs and flowers. Thailand excels in frying things, getting just the right consistency on their foods, and he wants to take advantage of that.
- lamb 1 rack – 4 to 5 bones – 2 lb
- lemon grass – 2 stalks
- Kaffir lime – 2 leaves
- Garlic – 6 cloves
- Curry powder (Yellow) – 1 tbsp
- Veetable oil – 1 cup
- Coriander – ¼ cup
- White pepper
- treat this like a pesto
- chop the garlic, lime leaf (rib removed), coriander, and add some salt. Use enough salt as you would in normally seasoning lamb
- brown the yellow curry powder in the oil for a quick cook to release the aromas.
- Remove the oil/curry from the heat, and pour into the “pesto” of curry ingredients
- Cool this mixture to room temperature, and then run it through the blender for a cook chop up and puree. You want to get this to a chunky stage.
- Once the marinade is ready, you can keep this in the fridge for a couple of days.
- have the butcher trim down the ends of the bones a bit.
- Spoon rub the marinade onto the meat
- Let the meat sit in the marinade for a day.
o If you do this with steak, cut the marinade time down to a couple of hours
o If you want to try a chicken, it can extend for half a day to a day.
o Now, if you’re man enough to do a turkey, you want a 2 day marinade.
- Earlier in the day, pan fry the lamb on the fat side. Use sunflower oil or canola oil, something relatively neutral in flavour. If you went for a European approach, then go instead for olive oil.
- Foil the bones on the tips to avoid browning.
- If you have two racks, after frying, interleave the bones and tent them, allowing the fat to drain away.
- Let the meat rest
- When it’s time, pop the rack into an oven at 350 fahrenheit
Chutney (we only oovered the carrot coconut, the lemon confit and mint were pretty self-explanatory)
- ½ cup of coconut (meat from older, brown coconut)
- ½ cup of carrot – cooked and minced
- red chilis to taste
- coconut milk
- sugar and salt to balance
Cook in the coconut milk, then just puree this to a soft point but still some texture, and use the sugar to balance the chili, and the salt to balance the sugar.
You can either spoon this to shape, or use a squeeze bottle.
This sauce would go really well with satay, and I’ll try it when I’m home.
One note, don’t serve the dish on too hot a plate, as the heat of the plate will affect the colours and consistency of your sauces.
The onion tart is simply a matter of making onion “jam. Thin slice some juicy red onions, sprinkle some sugar, and simply pack them into a casserole with a good cover (foil). Then let them slow cook and caramelize over about 90 minutes on a low heat. When it’s time to serve, spoon them into some prepared tarts.
For the service, he would put the tart under the cut of lamb, then garnish with the crisped leaves and herbs. However, we forget the tart and had to bring the plate back for it, so you get what’s in the photo, instead.
The next dish, the Shrimps with Chiang Mai Sausage, Pomelo and Yuzu is one of my favourites. I already did the sacrificial princess analogies in last night’s dinner, so I’ll put those aside. And just get on with it.
One of my favourite quotes from the WGF this year “If you don’t eat pork….that’s too bad”.
Sai eua (Chiang Mai sausage)
- 1 cup ground pork shoulder
- ¼ cup pork fat
- ½ tbsp egg white
- ½ tsp cornstarch
- 3 tsp nampla
- ground black pepper (fine grind)
- 1 kaffir lime leaf – fine dice, stem removed
- pinch of salt
- red chili to taste
Here he’s trying to capture the flavour of the sai eau, looking more for a meat loaf, or pork meatball, rather than trying to find some entrails to stuff. Likewise, the skin of the sausage wouldn’t work with the texture of the shrimp.
Once the mix is all worked together, shape it into a loaf, wrap in saran wrap, and put it to the fridge to stay cool.
He rinses the shrimp well to remove the iodine, dipping his hand into a bowl of water each time as he deveins to aid in cleaning them out.
Then the shrimp take a quick toss in a little cornstarch. This is so they’ll hold the bundle of sai eua that we attach in the curl. The ratio of prawn to meat should be about 2:1. Put these flattened on a plate, Put that plate into a steamer. Steam to a halfway cooked stage, so that the frying can finish the job.
Then put it in the fridge. You want to get it cold so you can bread it.
For the breading, use bread crumbs (there’s an act of genius). He prefers the panako, the Japanese bread crumbs. You could also use finely chopped pistachios.
He beats up the eggs, gives the shrimp a quick wash in it, and then rains the breading upon the shrimp. Once these are breaded and the tails are cleaned off, they go back in the fridge.
When it’s time, the shrimp are fried in either peanut oil (hot) or canola.
For the juice, we’ll need kaffir lime leaves, yuzu juice (or else a ¼ blend of tangerine and lime juice, which could substitute) and some Japanese soy sauce. Again, this should go back in the fridge to cool.
For a garnish, he’s using a Japanese mountain potato (yamaimo) coloured with some Chinese plum, then julienned and salted.
To plate, put some of the juice in the bottom, put in the pomelo wedge, and put the shrimp on top. Garnish to your heart’s delight.
Dessert – Slow Cooked Apple Terrine with Vanilla Ice Cream
1 apple (don’t use Red Delicious – he uses a green Matsu apple here)
1 tsp butter
1 tsp water
2 tbsp sugar
This is basically a tarte tatin – an upside down slow cooked apple tart.
The apple gets cored, peeled and set aside.
We need to caramelize the sugar, which uses up the water and sugar in our recipe, and then we add the butter to that when it’s ready. This we leave in the pan to cool down.
We thin slice the apple (rings) and then pack it into the casserole. We could also use pineapples for this, but thin we’d make them thicker so we don’t lose all the juice. Likewise, we could add some cinnamon or cognac.
Once packed in, seal with foil and then poke some holes in the foil. Pop it into an overn at 250 degrees, and cook for 2 and a half hours. When done, pull it out and let it cool. This is best done the day before.
To serve, turn it upside down to remove, and then dress with the caramel sauce. Susur has done this as a “pagoda” but he recommends just having one big thing of this that everyone can dig into at the table.
We talked a little bit while the food was coming (we were hungry). He spoke well of the products of Canada; of the foie gras that he’s getting from Quebec, and of his regular trips to the local markets.
And there was talk of the staging of last night’s dinner. He’s seen too often that Western diners, arriving hungry to a meal will load up on bread and kill their appetites. To counter this, why not put your heaviest dishes up front, and then move to the smaller and lighter dishes as you progress? This is more the form of a Chinese banquet.
Works for me.
Posted 22 September 2007 - 06:55 PM
After Susur’s class it was time to be in the next session, the Italian Sommeliers Association’s wine tasting.
For this they took us on a tour of the “boot”, starting in the North, and ending in Sicily.
Signor Bellini was much happier today, having either warmed to us the day before, or having resigned himself to his fate. In either case, he was enjoying himself much more, and joy is contagious.
I won’t go into the details here (as I’m already over a week behind), but we started with a discussion of the country classified on the basis of North, Central, and South. Of reds in the Northwest, and whites in the Northeast. Of the throng of grapes in the centre, and of the semi-drying of grapes in the South. From there each of the regions was reviewed and their grape varieties and most significant wines were discussed.
I learned that there are a lot of different grapes in Italy.
After the tour, we tasted six wines.
First we compared two whites. One from Umbria, a new, modern style Aurente Lungareotti 2005 Chardonnay, and the other the Angimbe Cusumano 2006. The Chardonnay was fine, 2005 being a good year for whites. Lots of fruit in the nose, oak barreled so you get that taste of vanilla. Long finish. Toasted. What you’d expect from a typical wine of this sort. In fact, it tates, as he says “like a Chardonnay from anywhere”. This could come from France or California, or Australia, or Chile.
The Cusumano, from the Inzolia grapes, has tropical fruites, almonds, a floral nose, and a little oak. “For me, the taste is like lemon grass of Thailand. Lemoncilla.” The colour is a rich, golden urine tone. This wine would work with shellfish, or chicken, and is generally drank in Italy with fried chicken.
Next is a Leonartdo Chianti Reserva 2005, from the vineyards nearby daVinci’s house. 90% Sangiovese, and the rest Merlot and Syrah. Drink it with steak, and drink it within 3 years.
Balifico Castello 2003, a “Super Tuscan”. Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s the spice of oak barrels, cloves, peppers, and licquorice. Tannic. A good nose, and a long finish (with not bitterness).
A 1999 Barollo from Batasiolo is poured. I’m content to let it open up a bit in the glass. This one is still young, and really needs to get to 10 years. The tastes are of pepper, roses, black truffles, chocolate and coffee. Liquiorice and mint come at the finish. For this wine Signor Bellini recommends we kill something wild and cook it.
And we end on a Moscado from Piemonte. “We drink a lot of Moscado in Italy”. At only 5.5% this is a refreshing, aromatic little thing to toss back while arguing about everything under the sun.
For some odd reason, most people are very happy after a wine tasting, especially when they’re on their fifth pour of the Barollo (does anyone use those spittoons?). Signor Bellini advised us to applaud the wine, not himself, and we all parted in the best of spirits.
Posted 22 September 2007 - 09:41 PM
I was there.
The week had run its course, as had I.
I made one last attempt to track down a Russian in Aqua, but to no avail. I did find Benny there, though. I’d met him last year at Syn at the Nai Lert, where he was promoting South. Here he was running the bar staff, and working with them on cocktails. Now there’s a job! To be a cocktail promoter. Why can’t I do that? Just because he has training and talent? Okay, that’s a fair enough reason. Benny whipped me up a chocolate martini which I savoured while wondering how long my suit would last in the humidity.
The answer, of course, is “not long”. I headed back inside, and found myself flitting between friends in Shintaro and my dinner in Biscotti.
Thank heavens this suit isn’t going to be doing any more dinners for a few days.
Then they started making the opening speeches in Shintaro, so I beat a hasty retreat to Biscotti to join my table and the Gavi that they’d poured.
Gavi DOCG, Del Commune di Gavi, Beni di Basiolo, Piemonte 2006
Octopus Carpaccio Served with Green Sauce,
Black Olive Potato Salad and Rucula
Chardonnay, Aurente, Lungarotti, Umbria IGT, 2005
Chestnut Soup with Rabbit Sausage
Duck Liver, Duck Gizzard and Pancetta
Nero D’Avola & Syrah, Benuara, Cusumano, Sicilia IGT, 2005
Raviolini “Del Plin” of Three White Meat,
With Tartia Pudding and Fried Sage,
Topped with a Crunchy Parmesan Cheese.
Chianti Riserva DOCG, Cantine Leonardo daVinci, Toscana, 2004
Risotto with White Truffle
Fonduta Cheese Sauce Served with a Barolo Wine Caramel
Chiant Classico Riserva DOCG, Castello di Volpaia, Toscana, 2003
Roasted Veal Fillet Served with Porcini Mushrooms,
Polenta Concia, Fried Rosemary and Sweetbread Veal Jus
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Campo dei Gigli, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Veneto 2000
Edizione, Cinque Autoctoni, Faranese, Abruzzo, 2004
Janduja Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Croquant,
Served with a Caramel Ice Cream and Whipped Cream
Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Bosc dia Rei, Beni di Batasiolo, Piemonte, 2006
This seemed like a good way to see out the week. Roberto Donna - a fine extract of Piemonte - has an excellent reputation with Galileo in Washington, and his other venues (in America, it is always “franchise or die”), and the Dogliani family never disappoint with their wines.
The first course, the octopus was good enough, tangy with the brine still in the octopus. But if I compare this with Talamimi’s octopus terrine of last year, I would go with the terrine.
The chestnut soup was beautiful. Both to the eyes, with the rich browns and the rugged little tower of meat and bird offal rising from the morass, but also on the tongue. Enough flavour in the fowl, and more than enough of that thick rich cream we associate with chestnut flavours.
The ravioli were serviceable enough, with the butter giving a fullness in the mouth, and the sage coming through in the nose.
Risotto…..I love risotto. I am also not adverse to truffles. This is just plain good.
And what a great room this is. With that large cooking space in the open, I can get up – supposedly to stretch my legs – and watch the staff at work with Roberto and Danilo putting together the meal. The visual with the rattle and hum of a happy room is better than a good film.
The veal disappointed a little. It was fine, a perfectly good cut of veal with very pleasant sauce of sweetbread jus but perhaps I just become jaded. Or perhaps I was getting full. Or perhaps I was paying too much attention to the Amarone, reliving it from the Gala, and comparing it to the bottle of Barola I’d knocked back at lunch? No, it couldn’t be that.
And desertt? A solid finish. A nice finish of chocolate cream. I must admit that I paid no attention to the Moscato, and continued to enjoy the Amarone.
It was a good meal, a nice room, and pleasant company. I would not classify any one element as breathtaking - well, perhaps the risotto - but the overall effect was a very nice story.
Posted 22 September 2007 - 09:49 PM
Maybe I don't quite qualify for that refrain.
We tarried for some moments after dinner in the lobby, and compared the week. There are a number of things I want to try when I get home (the Szechuan peppercorn ice cream being right up there), and there still remains a lot to say about the wines. Both the Grange tasting, and a more comprehensive treatment of the Italians are needed.
But at this point in my non-linear life, all I really wanted to do was enjoy the Macalan, get to a birthday party up on soi 22 (where the police are supposedly cracking down on farang without passports), and start eating some Thai food.
But that's another story.
PS - yeah, we should've popped a flash, but it might've scared the Macalan girls away. They were rather skittish about us.
Posted 19 November 2007 - 09:08 AM
I was going to put this in Dessert! but after spending several minutes, during which time I found Dinner, Lunch, and Breakfast, I gave up, and decided to put it in here as a continuation. So sue me.
Back in Post 53 Paul Wilson had done quinces, talking about how you have to poach them for ages, and then suddenly they’ll go like a sponge, and taste divine. I was intrigued by this, and had to give it a try. And, in post 54 of the thread, Doddie had offered to get me some quinces!
So, in the recent trip to Korea Doddie gifted me with a box of fresh quinces from Icheon!
I'm a firm believer in serendipity.
So, the weekend after we returned from Seoul, as that fine young Antipodean (albeit an Englishman originally) Paul had instructed, I prepared the poach, peeled the quinces, and pulsated the mousse (yeah, that’s a stretch).
The quinces I poached for four hours, and then, yes, they did go all spongy. It was fun to observe, as those rock hard bodies went to a softness you’d not have expected (Yoonhi’s making rude comments about my physique, again).
I then pulled the quinces off, let them cool, strained out the liquid, and set them aside in the fridge for the night.
I’d also prepared the chocolate chestnut mousse, and put that in the fridge in a plastic tub, as instructed. This was to give it more of an ice cream texture.
The next day it was a simple matter of finding some victims, and then putting the quinces, the sauce, and the mousse together for a quick dessert.
Thank you, Doddie! (And Billy!)
Posted 19 November 2007 - 11:04 AM
Send me some of those poached quinces. Thanks so much for documenting everything on this topic. Between this and the korean trip the food is driving me crazy. Thanks for the recipes too!
Posted 27 August 2008 - 08:54 PM
WGF IX at the Four Seasons Bangkok.
September 22 - 28
I know where I'm going to be.
Any other eGulleteers going to make it? I can make some of the events, and I'd love to maximize familiar faces!
Yes, the schedule is out indeed. I'm a glutton, as you're aware, so I was going to do everything. But let me scribble some thoughts ahead of writing anything more formal in the thread. I'm doing this in the order I'll do the dinners:
Siggi Hall - this looks interesting. Hall has a good rep, and I know nothing about Icelandic/Scandinavian cuisine other than that herring are generally involved (but that's only based upon one trip to Denmark in the 80's). What has me excited, though, is that Sileni from Hawkes Bay in NZ is doing the wine. They've been out before, and I like what they do.
Given that it's an alien cuisine for me, this is a cooking class I'm interested in.
Michael Ginor - the foie gras dinner is always a highlight for me, so neither Yoonhi or I would miss this.
Plus, we might get to see the PETA girls if they're on tour!
Glenn Ballis - The Australians are always sure to put on a good show, so his cooking class may be the best of the lot. Plus, he's coming from Moscow. There'd been talk of a Russian sourced chef last year, but that fell through. Ballis could be very good, or could just be a mish mash of fusion. It depends on how much caviar he brings with him. His cooking class may be the best of them.
Celina Tio - I've read very good things about her. But I'm unsure. A lot of what is written defines her technical brilliance, and her discipline. But she'll be working here with a foreign staff, in a strange kitchen. And I don't read that much about what she cooks. From a technical standpoint I'm interested in both her dinner and her class. I'm trying to talk Yoonhi into letting me take Serena to this class, as I think Celina would be a good role model for the Girl to see, but Yoonhi thinks Serena will be bored. Mixed feelings on this.
The Gala - this is always fun, but it's the most expensive. At a good WGF the chefs all work well together and the wines are outstanding. At a troubled WGF, they fight with each other and duplicate dishes, and the wines are......well....not memorable. If it's good, it's very good. If it's not good, my Scottish blood bridles at the value for money aspect.
Jeffrey Jakes - this is the one I'm probably the least enthusiastic about. I can't really say why, but there's nothing about the bio that thrills me. Like Manzke a couple of years back, it'll probably be a good meal, but I'm having difficulty seeing what will make it work in advance. Likewise, the cooking class may or may not work out that well.
Maurizio Quaranta - This could be the top dinner. Plus, I like to end in Biscotti. The room has an excellent buzz when they've got a top Italian chef in the place. I've never felt bad about the Italians who come, particularly the Piedmontese. And, they're a lot of fun in the cooking class.
I should go back and check over the other wines, as well.
26 days to go.
Posted 02 September 2008 - 01:37 PM
Quail Egg and Chive Shallot Emulsion
I become fixated on synchronicity (and don't get me started on the number 42).
After Houston and Japan, I've been thinking that the best thing to do with really, really good beef is just eat it raw.
And then Michael Ginor has this on the proposed menu for the 23rd.
16 days until I get on that plane.
Posted 20 September 2008 - 07:23 PM
Like most of my stories, this one starts in a bar. In an airport. Waiting.
The great curse of modern travel is that we spend so much time not moving. We wait in lines for security, we wait in lines for check-in, we wait in lines for customs, and then we amble about aimlessly waiting for our aircraft to be ready to strap us in for that modern-equivalent of the Iron Maiden.
I was starting out in a good mood, you can tell. At least I had a cold Fosters to get me through prayer time.
Air travel aside, this promises to be a good trip. I’ll have two weeks in Bangkok, the first eight days tied up in the WGF and its precursor – brunch – and then a little less than a week on the tail end in which to further luxuriate in the hedonism that passes itself off as the capitol of Thailand.
Politics are still playing themselves out. The coup has not not yet come to a head, the prime minister has stepped down, being found guilty of cooking while on the job (Khun Samak had continued to play host on a culinary program), the PAD was still protesting – they’re just not certain what, the ex-prime minister had sold Manchester City, but he and the missus didn’t look to be coming back to visit yet, but he wasn’t too concerned as his brother-in-law was now put forward as the new PM.
I love this town.
There, my mood's reversed (as is my location, now)
I have today and half of tomorrow to my own devices. Such devices, of course, will include brunch. Dinner is still a matter of conjecture.
So many meals, so little time.
Posted 22 September 2008 - 03:02 AM
It was 9:00 a.m., and I was checking in. The critical thing is not to let my eyes close. That would be bad, as they wouldn’t be coming open again until after a dozen or so hours of sleep.
I don’t know about you, but (with one unfortunate exception at the Capital Grille in Houston) it is difficult for me to nod off while eating. Thus, once I’d cleaned off most of the air travel from me, brunch was the perfect solution.
I’d recently covered the brunch in detail, so I won’t regurgitate it fully here.
While a buffet is one of those few meals that works solo (what with the coming and going) it is infinitely more fun when there’s good company. So I was very happy that Ellen (FlyingRat) could join me. She hadn’t done the brunch here before, so that made it even more fun, as the sharing of good things is one of life’s pleasures.
Dining with fellow eGulleters is enjoyable as there’s no need to hold back in terms of food geeking. I held forth on my brunch position – that it’s as much an event as a meal – and one to be extended and savoured.
For that reason, it’s important as to how you stage the dishes.
(I’ll keep the photos down to the items that I hadn’t done before.)
I’d done the wise thing, and ignored the airplane breakfast. The Thai stewardess was a little concerned, but when I told her I was saving my appetite for Bangkok, she agreed quite readily.
To open, I went for a Bloody Mary. Given my run down state, it seemed wise to be healthy and start with something vegetarian. I know, a tomato really is a fruit, not a vegetable, but I was too hungry to quibble.
Then I began on the cold seafood. This works well, as the effort of deshelling slows down the frenzy that can otherwise break out, and the chill on the food can numb your appetite a bit, allowing you to hold back from immediate peaking.
The seafood selection had been enhanced with the addition of razor clams. In counter to the soft yielding flesh of the scallops, these provided a nice chewiness. The oysters, with their thin mucalness, the flake of the crab, and the meatiness of the prawn filled in the notches in the textural spectrum.
The Bloody Mary finished about halfway through the seafood (linger over the food, but ensure you stay hydrated) and so I continued with fruit, calling for a glass of chardonnay. It’s a lazy choice, but I’m a lazy fellow, and I didn’t want to complicate things just yet.
Back to food, the next move was to provide lubrication to facilitate the movement of food in the system. While motor oil does the job for a car’s engine, something else is required for the human body. Luckily, Nature has addressed this issue with the miracle we call foie gras….okay, the French call it that, but it sounds a lot better than just saying “duck liver”.
As a set I had a foie gras sausage, the foie gras custard (a cheerful bowl of yellow goodness), and, of course, three slabs of the seared foie gras. This, I feel, is an integral element in any good breakfast.
Next, I broke with tradition, and in a rather daring move, went for the grill early. I’d been mentally wrestling with this choice for some time, as my normal tactic is to put off the meats for later, as the harder to digest protein can fill you up and get in the way of other foods.
But my rationing was that too often I don’t have enough craving (or space) left in the final stretches of the brunch, and can’t really do justice to the meats. By taking it early, it might cost me a bit in the intermediate stage, but with three hours to go, I felt that I would have overcome this initial setback.
Still, restraint is the key to surviving a brunch. I passed the chefs my order. I took only a slice of the roast pork, which called to me with the twinkle of its crackling. Apple sauce, unlooked for but most welcome, came in a dollop on one end to hold the pig in place. I asked for the smallest chunk of tuna they had, and had that lightly seared and presented with a cream sauce, and then indulged in a lamb chop.
With an Australian Syraz in hand, I worked steadily through the plate. The result was a success, with only a bit of the edge of my appetite dulled. But with this out of the way, I could dally over the various sundries.
I ordered some sashimi, looking for the cold freshness together with the nose-cleaning properties of wasabi to rejuvenate me. Octopus, tuna, salmon, and mackeral did nicely for me, paired with a martini that I’d asked them to deliver when the fish was served.
While I waited for the sashimi to arrive, I went heavy again with a plate of grilled eel, using a steamer of Chinese sumai (dumpling) to lighten things up. Feeling the need for a vegetarian element in advance of the martini, I opted for another Bloody Mary.
The sashimi brought me up to the surface, and I was feeling generally human by this point.
Ellen’s company helped, too, as it gives you a reason to kick back for a few minutes from time to time and compare notes, giving your body time to regenerate the enthusiasm you need to make it through a brunch of this sort.
I’m on record as having a weak spot for sausages, and so the Thai station lured me in with cheerful little sai krod grilling over charcoal. With this there were also chicken meatballs, which looked to be worth a try. The moo ping (pork satay) also looked good, and they had miang kam in a shot glass, the ingredients heavily loaded with a sweet syrup which held everything together. I usually only add a couple of drops – but I couldn’t argue with what they’d done here, it made it much more of a “sweet” than usual, which helped with the generous use of chilis in the sai krod.
I was beginning to flag, but there was still an hour. Just as oil should be topped up from time to time, I realized that what I needed was more foie gras. But this time it was only three slabs of the pan seared, with a flute of Jeanne D’Arque sparkling to revive me.
I chased that with a half dozen oysters, and that was enough to pull me back from the edge, the chill snapping me awake.
The incident had taught me caution. I’d do better with the cold dishes now, and keep the quick energy of fat close at hand. With another glass of syraz in hand, I turned to the cheeses and charcouterie. While indulging in the full fat experience of good, runny cheese I had time to linger and talk some more, and the carnal red of the meats kept me alert enough to keep functioning.
Next was a plate of the Four Seasons smoked salmon. It was good, but I’m a Vancouverite snob about such things, and still have my preferences. I loaded up on marinated mushrooms, and took heart in some artichokes.
We were approaching the final stretches. Madison was beginning to empty, now only perhaps half full, and there was just another half hour on the clock. I ordered a final plate of the foie gras, and then turned my thoughts to dessert.
As you know, I’m not a “dessert guy”. But everything looks so pretty, and the sight of the Grand Marnier bottle by a crepe pan was enough to get me excited.
I took the crepes with fresh mango and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A glass of the sparkling gave a nice edge to the sweetness on my plate.
This left only a pair of puddings and some chocolate truffles between myself and the finish. Ellen asked for some coffee, and I, in turn, ordered a final martini, this one gin with a twist of lemon.
And there we were, safely through the process, emergent on the other side none the worse for wear.
Okay, I might’ve become a little bigger…….but travel is meant to be broadening.
Next: Disaster Strikes
Posted 22 September 2008 - 08:34 PM
I’d told myself not to close my eyes. I’d made myself promise not to look at the inside of my eyelids…..
One of the problems with talking to yourself all the time is you stop paying attention.
I closed my eyes.
When I woke up, it was 7:30, and I’d missed canapés in the lounge. My dinner plans for the evening had fallen through earlier, when people I’d hoped to be meeting were hung up in Shanghai.
What would I eat?
This is Bangkok. There’s always something to eat.
Back near Asoke and Sukhuvit, there’d been an interesting looking stall I’d passed a couple of times when I was staying near there in July. That would do quite nicely.
This stall had drawn my attention for two reasons:
First, the innovative lighting solution. There’s something just a little jarring about a naked fluorescent tube, and this sarong of noodle wrapper just took the edge off.
And second, of course, were the ingredients. On a bed of ice there were river prawns, crabs, cockles, squid, oysters, and, of course hot dogs.
Hot dogs just fit in so well.
But what I was really looking for was the offal. They had a nice pile of pig intestine over to one side, and my heart (and liver, spleen, and perhaps one kidney) were set on guts.
They came out boiled, with hunks of fat still clinging to them, resistant to the wash. A nice appetizer, chewy and greasy, with fresh vegetables to aid in the digestion.
Kent Wang had raised the question awhile back as to Where's the offal in Thai cuisine?
For some reason, while it’s readily available here, you don’t see it on the menus outside of Thailand (often).
Cockles are always a good choice, so I had a plate of these, mouths agape and orange tongues spiting me to eat them (which I did).
Squid in basil over rice was meant to fill me out, and went partway to accomplishing that task. A good, solid burn to this, with enough chilis to satisfy, but not to put it over the top.
But this standard prep gave me an idea. I went back and asked for more of the entrails, but this time fried in the same manner.
This worked admirably well. The frying took away more of the fat, and firmed up the intestinal walls, and the burn from the extra chilis in this woke me up enough.
At least awake enough to grab a cab and get back home. I needed to close my eyes.
Next: Day 1 – Almost
Posted 22 September 2008 - 08:39 PM
By now a few of you may be asking "Where's the WGF in this?"
There'd been a change of schedule to the WGF, with the start being pushed back to Monday. And with Monday, there'd be no lunchtime class, only the opening dinner.
But that's okay. As I'd said, there were plenty of places to eat, and I wanted to get some good Thai food in me before settling into the alternative cuisines of the WGF.
So, bear with me for one more Thai meal, a lunch, and then we'll get into the functions.
Next: One More Thai Meal
Posted 23 September 2008 - 07:03 PM
As I’d mentioned, this first Monday of the WGF found me without a lunch class to occupy my time. But Bangkok is the great Waster of Time, so I had no fear of being left with nothing to do.
Waking up, for instance. That wasn’t an easy thing. When my eyes did become unglued, it was to find the angry red clock lights accusing me of it being 11:00 a.m. I took that as accurate advice, and washed, swam, and then did some writing.
And then the phone rang. My nephew, Clark, had arrived from Canada. Things were heating up. I called Ellen to see if she could do lunch at Kinnaree, as it’s quite convenient for her, then I took my jet-lagged groggy nephew in tow, and set off for a quick intro to the BTS and getting around.
Kinnaree was as I’d left it, which means beautifully laid out, and very quiet. I was very happy to be here this time, as, with Clark and Ellen, we could start ordering more. I’d felt bad about only having a handful of dishes last time, so I’d asked Ellen to start ordering, and we’d top up.
Sitting on the table were a nice yam som o and a krathong tong. The yam som o was, as always, enjoyable. How could it be anything else? In part I like that mix of sweetness and sour, although I find the pomelo here so much sweeter than what I can buy back home. For the other part, I can never approach this dish without thinking of the human effort that goes into separating all of the pieces of pomelo into their individual bits.
The krathong tong, those little waffle cups topped up with minced chicken and corn, and finished with that little bit extra that I like about Kinnaree, in this case a perfect leaf of coriander topped with one sliver of red chili.
When I was here last there were a number of items on the menu that looked tempting, but I’d limited myself by dining solo. Now I could give more play to the order.
This was my nephew’s first Thai meal in Thailand, so there were some things we had to do (besides yam som o). One was tom kha kai. The rich comfort of good chicken stock with coconut milk and galanga. A small drizzle of chili oil in the mix, but not that it would burn. This is more a soup of comfort than a full frontal assault.
They had Neur Pun Saparod – thin slices of meat wrapped around pineapple and grilled. How can you say anything bad about a pineapple?
And there were river prawns wrapped in pandan leaves – gung ho bai toey. The roasted pandan gave it that trademark smell as you unwrapped it, and then you had the soft, wet meat of the prawn itself, pulled away from the oversized head of the crustacean.
Sweetheart crab – a crab farci – was brought to us on a bed of fried noodles. Crab is always good like this when someone else does the work.
Hor mok pla salmon, while not traditional (I have yet to observe an annual salmon run up the Mekong or Chao Phrya – although the idea does have its attractions). This mousse of fish, crab, and prawns (or whatever is at hand) was soft and pliable inside, the little dab of coconut cream giving it a little push to the moist side. I lusted after this dish, too, I must admit.
And, finally, I had one of the vegetarian dishes. Ellen had enjoyed these last time, so we ordered up the lamb massaman – a rich curry with lumps of what appeared to be lamb. This was vegetable protein, but molded and coloured to look like a hunk of lamb. Buried in the thick yellow massaman sauce, it did pass as something a carnivore would look enjoy. I wish the photo for this had worked out, but my camera skills devolve by the day.
We were doing well. I was still awake and Clark was only slightly groggy. We had to get back to the Four Seasons so we made our farewells, and headed for the BTS.
Next: The WGF Begins
Posted 24 September 2008 - 03:44 AM
Iceland. I think of…..well….ice. And rocks. And volcanoes, geysers, Viking longboats, NATO anti-submarine warfare. That sort of stuff.
But what it actually is is the country the UN has pegged as “most developed”, with an excellent standard of living, a healthy economy (still heavily based upon food exports), and a strong sense of tradition and culture.
And any time I hear tradtion and culture, I start to think of food.
I’ll put aside the travel statistics for later, as we’ll be doing Siggi’s cooking class, too, so I’ll yack about that later.
We were dining in Shintaro, a nice setting for this, as I was to find a number of similarities with Japanese cuisine, not least the emphasis on fish.
Siggi took a couple of minutes to discuss the food, most of which had come with him from Iceland in some darn large luggage, but I’ll put those comments in place with the dishes that come up.
I’d been looking forward to trying his food since I’d begun doing the background research on him earlier in the month. He is very much the man for Icelandic cuisine, having led the Icelandic culinary team for 5 years in the 90’s, and is a key player in the New Nordic Cuisine promotions, this last seeing him appearing on dozens of tv programs over the years. I’d met him for a moment the day before at brunch, as he was still getting over the flight trauma (like me). He’s a very large man, with that slow rumbling manner of speech that I like in the Scandinavians, reminding me of a bear coming out of slumber. And he also shares that pleasant happy nature I find in a lot of the Scandinavians.
Pip from Sileni of New Zealand was up next. Sileni, happily, was back for this WGF. I’d really enjoyed their tasting when they were here a couple of years ago. They were very concerned about developing their wines for food, and then Pip brought their chef with them from the culinary school. It was a great session, and when I’d seen their names on the list earlier in August, I was quite happy. The Kiwis always approach everything they do with a certain joy – be it making wine, bungie jumping, or driving a bus, so it’s hard not to like them.
Pip did joke that the Four Seasons must have been looking at a map of the world, and tried to pick the two farthest spots to match up for a dinner. But there was a lot in the menu that she felt would work with their wines, and she was looking forward to seeing how things worked out.
Sileni is in a good position here, being the leading NZ wine in the Thai market. Okay, that’s small compared to the role the Aussies play here, but they’re happy with the relation ship they’ve built up, which isn’t bad given that the winery is only on its 10th vintage.
But enough of that, let’s consider the food.
Plate of Icelandic Starters
Herring with Horseradish Sauce
Sileni Estate Selection Hawke’s Bay, The Circle Semillon 2004
We’d started with the wine in the lobby, but I’d been too busy shmoozing to take a glass. Luckily it carried through the first dish, and I was able to linger over a glass while waiting for the first course.
For a semillon it was darker than expected, and with an earthy nose. It hit the front of the palate, and then lingered around the edges, with a lot of citrus. It was clean and fresh, and made for a good opener, although it needed to be warmed up a bit so we could get more of the flavours out of it.
Herring! I like herring. And this was done in two ways atop a slab of that thickly dark black bread of the Nordic countries. The one half had a spicey horseradish sauce, while the other piece was a sweeter flavour, with almost a hint of plum in the background.
Beside it, in the middle, was a wonderful bit of gravlox. This had been done with fennel, dill, mustard seed, and then a good hit of vodka, giving it quite a different flavour. I’d asked Siggi about this, and he’d used vodka as a more neutral backing for the herbs, but if you wanted to increase this, then you could use aquavit instead, as it has many of the same flavours. It’s just a question of how intense you want it to be.
And third was the crispy langoustine tail. As Rona has said “frying is good”, and I’m not about to argue with her.
Arctic Charr with Langoustine Sauce and Julienne of Green Leeks
Sileni Cellar Selection, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Siggi had introduced this fish as “if salmon is the King, then char is the pretty little princess”. It’s a much less intense fish, without the oil and strength of salmon, with a texture that pulls away in moist parcels of meat. The sauce, a cream with a strong langoustine flavour, was really, really good. This was a very nice dish, and I was looking forward to finding out how the sauce was made in the class.
The wine, a sauvignon blanc from their vineyards in the South Island, was, again, just too cold. It also wasn’t as citrusy as expected, atypical of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs. We asked Pip about this, and she said this was on purpose. They’d wanted to avoid the aggressiveness tart gooseberry flavour of many of the others from the Marlborough, as they mean their wines to be companions to the foods, rather than wines made to stand only as wines.
Baked Cod with Almond Crust
Sileni Estate Selection, North Ilsand, The Lodge Chardonnay 2006
Another fish, this one the mighty cod, cornerstone of Iceland’s economy. Siggi had encrusted it in a luminous alien coating of green, which did give a very nice crisp to the outside, while also imparting the flavour of the herbs and nuts.
Filet of Lamb and Lamb Sausage with Xéres Sauce and Sage
Sileni Satyr, Marlborough, Pinot Noir 2006
Iceland is very proud of its lamb. Siggi explained that the animals are all free range from the point of weaning, and that you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer lamb in all the world. Now, bear in mind he’s saying this with a New Zealander present (“We know a thing or two about sheep”).
It is a very good piece of lamb. Not a lot of excess fat (which I would’ve enjoyed) but very tender, and without any gaminess to it. The sauce, with a good quantity of sweet sherry in it, was likewise excellent, and the potatos, loaded with cream, finished off a perfect mouthful. He’d tempura’d a leaf of sage, and had some pretty little vegetables there as garnish.
The sherry in the sauce was a nice touch. Iceland was paid for the bacalao they delivered to Iberia with port in the old days, and so there’s been a good selection over the centuries for cooking and sipping.
The pinot noir was very interesting, not at all what Clark was expecting, as he’d had a number of New Zealand pinot noirs before, and was looking for that “funky” nose, what one of the others at our table referred to as “barnyard”. This one was very much about cherries, and very soft tannins. On it’s own it didn’t do much for us, but once we took it with the lamb it proved to be an excellent match, and the strengths of the wine came very much to the forefront once our other tastebuds were activated.
But I didn’t mention the sausage. As Siggi circulated at the bar and tables, a cry came up from behind us of “The sausage!”; obviously a (raucaus) vote of approval. This was packed with herbs and flavour, and, cut, was beautiful when soaked with the sauce.
With the meat finished, we took the opportunity to call back the earlier whites. These had had enough time out of the fridge now for the flavours to come out from hibernation, and the nose and the palate both improved a lot, making an even more agreeable splash in the mouth.
Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Skyr Ice cream
Sileni Estate Selection, Hawke’s Bay, Late Harvest Semillon 2004
Skyr, pronounced “ski-er”, is a fun ingredient for an ice cream. It’s like a mascarpone, or a thick, tart yogurt, and is a solid part of the Icelandic diet. And, if there’s a national berry, it’s the blueberry. Dress it up with strawberry and blackberry sauces, a bit of chocolate, and you’ve got a good finish.
They’d made the ice cream with minimal sugar, which made the dessert a better match for the Semillon, or the “sticky” as Pip called it. Very similar to a sauterne, this was a pretty thing, and one we were happy to call back to the table several times (I’m not shy).
But, I’m proud to say we weren’t last out of the restaurant. Mind you, part of that most of us were seriously flagging, and some serious sleep sounded like an excellent idea.
Posted 25 September 2008 - 06:32 PM
I woke up. Again the red numbers of death were confronting me from my bedside, but this time it wasn’t so bad. It was only about 8. Serena and Yoonhi would be arriving soon, so I headed for the shower.
As expected, just as I was about to wash, they arrived. It’s a guarantee.
Once the family was settled, and Yoonhi had set out with Serena for the pool, Clark and I went down for the first of the cooking classes.
Celina grew up in a house where her grandfather, Julian, did the cooking. When he wasn’t cooking, the other men in the house were. By eight she’d developed a resolve to be the first woman in the family to cook in the kitchen. She stuck to it.
The result is a charming young lady with a solid background who’s taken a series of the top awards; 2005 Chef of the Year (Chef Magazine) and 2007 Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation (among others).
I’d be happy enough if I could get Serena to be resolved enough to get out of bed for breakfast right now.
The dishes we’d be doing today were, as Celina said, indicative of American cooking, which means you can do just about anything. We would start with the Sonoma mushroom stack, then we’d do a braised pork belly, and finish with her version of a Baklava. A bit of California, some solid US pot roast, and a touch of the Med.
Celina had been at The American in Kansas City for the last several years, but had left it a couple of months ago. She’s spent the time with her two and half year old. But she was itching to return to the kitchen, and was preparing to open her own place now, which will be called Julian.
They changed the layout of the demo, moving everything 90 degrees counterclockwise, and installing an impressive Gaggenau cooking station. Where before there’d been a small oven and a table top gas burner for the chefs, now they had a grill, gas range, magnetic induction unit, two ovens, and a huge standing fridge/freezer.
All of which made it harder to figure out. But it looks really good. I’m an easy sell on hardware.
Sonoma Mushroom Stack
serves 4 to 6 (depending on the number of eggs)
First up was a revelation regarding ricotto. I’ve been spending too much money buying it. Part of Celina’s style is to make her ingredients herself, rather than sourcing them. The ricotta was dead easy.
1 gallon milk (raw would be best, if you can get it)
¼ cup vinegar
We brought the milk up to 92 degrees C (we’ll be waffling between centigrade and Fahrenheit here), and then, when the milk came up, poured in the vinegar to get it to curdle, which happens right away.
Then she took off the curds, let them settle for a couple of minutes, and then worked them up like scrambled eggs to break the size down evenly.
1 sheet of phyllo pastry
fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
2 tbsp butter
First, clarify the butter, and have it ready with a brush. Then spread out your phyllo in a full sheet. Cover this with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out. Then spread out another, and cover, and then take a third sheet and brush with the clarified butter. Top this with the second sheet, brush it, too, with butter, and then season lightly. Then take that first sheet that was staying moist, brush it with butter, and add it to the stack. Now, using either a knife or a wheel, cut the phyllo stacks into 3 inch squares. Bake these at 375 degrees centigrade for 7 to 9 minutes. You’ll want to either bake them between two non-stick baking sheets, or, if you don’t have heavy these, just find something reasonably heavy and flat to put on top (that won’t stick) so that you can keep the sheets flat.
1.5 lb of assorted mushrooms (she had some really pretty clamshells with her)
1 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons red vinegar
2 ounces vegetable stock
1 teaspoon chives
fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon of butter
Meanwhile, the mushrooms were sautéing on the flat top, a touch of olive oil to start things. After 30 seconds she added some minced garlic and shallots.
Seasoning, she always does it in three stages. At the start, before the it heats up, in the middle, and at the end.
After another minute or so, add some red wine vinegar and vegetable stock to the ‘shrooms and then let it reduce a shade. Then hit it with that tablespoon of butter you had back in the recipe, and swirl it in. When it’s all functional, add the chives, and touch up the seasoning (the third stage) to taste.
With the mushrooms ready, they’re put aside. This is a dish that can be prepped in advance.
Next, we turn our attention to the eggs. These are cooked one by one.
4 to 6 farm fresh eggs, whole
fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
1 cup panko bread crumbs (the Japanese kind)
2 tablespoons of butter (you can never have enough butter)
Put a little oil in, and then sprinkle in half the bread crumbs. Work out a divot in the middle for the yolk to nestle in, and then crack and slide in the egg. Season for the first time.
Sprinkle more bread crumbs on top.
When its cooked on the bottom, carefully flip it and cook it crispy and brown on the other side too (and season). Be careful that you keep the yolk soft. One of Celina’s favourite quotes was “the egg is the only food that comes with its own sauce”.
With the egg complete, a lovely golden brown colour, you now come to the best part. You trim off the edges to square the shape, and then you get to eat the edges (and check the seasoning).
Now you can plate it. Egg on the bottom, and then top this with some ricotta. Put the phyllo square on top of the cheese, and then stack up the mushrooms, repeating the phyllo/mushroom layers as ambitiously as you choose. When it’s ready, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and pop it in the oven to warm up a touch (if needs be).
I little sprinkle of oil and herbs around the plate, and you’re there.
Slow Roasted Pork Belly
3 lb pork belly
2 quarts brine
6 purple carrots blanched
6 yellow carrots blanched
6 orange carrots blanched
24 tri coloured pearl onions
24 marble potatoes, blanched and split
¼ cup pinot noir
1 cup veal stock
fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of cold butter
[i]Note: the water
The recipe above is the one in the book, but you’ll find that we added and took with what was available at hand. For the carrots, we used just some nice purple ones, pretty little vegetables that’ll dress up well. Those in the recipe provide a nice range of colours, but you could just as easily use any good old-fashioned orange carrot.
The day before….
Start off with a brine. Celina’s fond of brines. She boils up water with a bit of sugar and enough salt. This breaks down the crystals. Then she adds in peppercorns and herbs and lets it cool.
With the brine cold, she skins the belly and lets it have about two hours in the salt bath.
The pork belly, out of the brine, is seasoned and then seared. Move it from the pan to a parchment covered tray, and let it go for four hours at 250 F. After the time is up, put the meat on another parchmented tray,put some parchment on top, then weigh the meat down to keep it flat as it cools overnight.
I’m going to have to buy more parchment.
The day of serving, slice the pork into 6 ounce servings, and then fry it fat side down to render some of the fat out and get it crispy. It’s a heart warming sight to see a lump of pork like that sizzling away on the flat top. Then you can put it in the oven for 40 minutes at 250 F again to heat through.
Take the vegetables and sauté them over medium high in olive oil, going for a golden brown finish. Celina added in celery here, as well as some fresh thyme (but not the parsley yet). When you get golden, deglaze with the wine and reduce by half. Then add the veal stock, and add the cold butter. Chop the parsley, and add it to the sauce last.
The plating is straightforward. The sauce goes in, the meat takes centre place (and a little more seasoning), and then the onions and potato go in the sauce, and those pretty, thin carrots garnish the top.
Honey Semifreddo with Warm Pistachio Cake and Crispy Phyllo
We start with Celina’s version of Baklava.
2 sheets of phyllo pastry
2 oz melted butter
1 oz sugar
First, the sheet of phyllo is draped down like a shroud, then brushed with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Then drape another shroud and brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar again. The recipe just calls for two sheets, but you could make this thicker if you chose.
The sugar can be any type, depending if you want a slight granularity, or just the sweetness (castor). Brown of various flavours will work, too. It’s just a matter of taste.
Knife or wheel, take your pick, you cut the prepped Baklava into rectangles (or whatever shape you’re after) and pop it in the oven until golden.
Keeping with the trend, the phyllo is also baked weighted down to keep it flat.
Next up was the semifreddo:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp gelatin (or 2 sheets – she prefers sheets, like most chefs I’ve talked to)
1.5 tbsp water
2.5 oz honey
This can form the basis of a lot of desserts, taking just about any topping you can imagine. Semi-frozen, it doesn’t need the churning of ice cream. You can just mix it up, flavour it, and then freeze it in shape, giving you a perfectly easy way to eat cream.
The gelatin sheets were bloomed back while we were working on the phyllo, and then heated gently in a double broiler to bind the gelatin to the honey, then allow to cool.
The cream was whipped to medium peaks with the eggs, and then the honey/gelatin was mixed in as well, with a little reserved for painting the plate.
The whip in the mixer was a little short, so Celina ended up doing it by hand, which was a much faster process. This is then poured out into the molds, and banged off to the freezer.
The third part was the pistachio cake.
9.5 oz browned butter
3 oz pistachio flour
6 oz all purpose flour
8 oz powdered sugar
9 oz of egg whites
This is basically a financier. Whip the egg whites up to a froth, and then add the flours and sugars and whip until evenly combined. At that point, slowly dd the browned butter while continuing to whip.
At this point, let the batter rest overnight. Okay, we can’t do that with the time at hand, but then again, we’re not really going to eat this one, we’re going to eat the ones made earlier, so it’s okay. The batter is piped into molds and spatula’d clean, and then baked.
For the plating, put down the bit of reserved honey, then use the sheet of ‘Baklava’ to separate the cake from the semifreddo. Top with a sprinkle of pistachio to match the cake’s underpinning, and chow down.
With the dishes we did three wines from Vincor. The first two were from their Jordanne subsidiary. This is a joint venture of Vincor and Boissset France, working from vineyards in the Niagara region (the Canadian side, that is).
The first was Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay from 2006. This had a bit of butterscotch to it, and more tropical fruit tones than what we’d had the night before. With the mushroom stack and the thickness of the egg yolk squirting out, this was a good match.
Then the pinot noir. This was also part of Jordanne’s Village Reserve, a 2005. This smelled like a pinot noir, and was also a fair pairing for the pork, which pulled apart under the fork.
Not bad wines, in either case, and safe with the plates they were supporting.
Vincor had been out here a few years back. Then it was the Inniskillin Icewine they’d been promoting, and that’s still their primary product here. With the Baklava they served the 2006 Oak Aged Vidal Icewine, a nice touch of nectar to slide along with the honey and cream of the dessert.
I would love to do an Inniskillin with some foie gras at some point. I’ll have to look for that. They’ll be putting it into the market here in December. I remember when they were promoting it back here before, and when asked about the best place to get a bottle, it was Singapore Duty Free, given that the Thai tax system pretty much kills most wine sales here.
It’s good to see Vincor back here. They were out last for WGF 4 or 5, I’d have to go back to my notes (which aren’t here in Bangkok with me). One of the Canadian success stories, they were bought out by Constellation of the US. But then, Constellation is part of Seagram’s, which goes back north of the border. It was Constellation as well that bought up Mondavi on that fateful night a few years back when we sat down to a vertical tasting of the Mondavis here at the Four Seasons a few WGFs ago.
I poked around behind the Gaggenau front, admiring the under-the-counter fume hood, and the MI unit. They had a neat accessory that I should pick up, a metal ring, like the crown of the Monkey King, that rests on the MI unit. This both maintains the contact so that the system doesn’t shut down when you raise away (at least, that’s a feature on my Eurodib) and it allows you to use your round bottom woks.
This was the first lunch class, and, along with the food and wine, we were all catching up on the latest places to eat in town. Isao, on Sukhumvit soi 31 sounded good, a small Japanese venue; and everyone was saying good things about Ember, a Northern extension of the Singapore venture. And there was also a really good crab winter noodle place in the food court in the Emporium……
I need more time for eating.
Next: more time eating
Posted 26 September 2008 - 05:29 AM
I hadn't thought of offal not being offered in Thai restaurants until you brought it up. Hmmmm I wonder if it is because they think the customers wouldn't be interested, or something else?
Posted 26 September 2008 - 09:55 AM
Peter, you making me want to lick the screen. Man the pork belly is calling to me.
I hadn't thought of offal not being offered in Thai restaurants until you brought it up. Hmmmm I wonder if it is because they think the customers wouldn't be interested, or something else?
I think there's an issue with a lot of the "new cultures" not wanting to offend their host countries. Yes, some of us lose out, but we avoid having them feel bad about us feeling bad.
That's an odd way of putting it, I know, but it's all about how you feel about how people feel.
I've been out here too long, I know.
Tonight's dinner, the Gala, was fun. I have a tumbler full of Yamazaki whiskey that I extorted out of the staff, and now I'm wondering if there's some beer Chang to be had.
But, we'll get back to that in due time.
Edited by Peter Green, 26 September 2008 - 10:14 AM.
Posted 26 September 2008 - 09:48 PM
I'm glad I carry coffee with me.
Posted 27 September 2008 - 02:29 AM
I can take the full pleasure of obsessing and posting and obsessing about posting later on, as the weeks unfold.
Following up on Celina's class, we did the foie gras dinner (which I'm working on the write-up now). Michael is a good standard for quality (and quality requires standards). He does have the benefit of knowing this place very well, and so he can drop into the groove with little effort. But he's also incredibly well-disciplined (as opposed to me) and so can always deliver an excellent meal, to the point that he'll do interesting things that another guest chef might not dare. I'll leave the details to the full writing, but that's the general impression.
The class with Siggi the next day (the 24th) was pleasant. I've spent a little time talking and eating with Siggi, and he's one of those people you just naturally like. The preparations were clean and straightforward (I have to try making that sausage at home), and the instruction didn't overwhelm the notebook. The Silenis came over far better in this setting, giving us more time to reflect on the differences between them and standard Kiwis, and my nephew is now an avid fan of theirs.
After Siggi we did Glen Ballis that evening. I'd talked with Malcolm, the F&B here, about this, and what they did makes sense after I've thought about it. The whole idea was to be eclectic. An Australian chef cooking in Moscow doing Asian food in a Japanese restaurant with good Bordeaux wines. That's eclectic. This is one case where I wish he'd been earlier in the program with his cooking class, as his food is (perhaps) the most complicated.
The next day it was class with Jeffrey Jakes. Clean, straightforward, and he has the practice and style of a good teacher, keeping a continual stream of information coming to you as he tries to figure out the hi-tech kitchen we have this year. I think he did the best job of defining American food, drawing upon the iconic hamburger: "In America, we adjust the flavours to suit our tastes". I'll come back to that idea later on in this thread.
That evening was dinner in Biscotti with Celina. I like Biscotti, I like Celina. This was a good meal, and, while some of the meals did better in the more clinical setting of the classroom, this one was superb in the wine dinner. Plus, the Jordanne wines of Niagara came over very well (and I snuck in a few extra glasses of the sparkling Icewine).
Mornings were getting to be a chore by this point, but at least we had the day to ourselves on Friday. I'll give you a break form the WGF when I get to this, and post some Thai food again.
The Gala was, well, a gala. Jewelry, a different crowd of people, and lots of pretty dresses. Myself, I was sweating to death in a tux, but how often do I get to wear one. As a meal it worked out well, without the button popping excess of some prior years. And I found a tumbler of Yamazaki whiskey in the room this morning when I came back at 6 a.m. after a march through town with some of the chefs.
And so we find ourselves existing in the now (something I try not to do too often). Clark and I did Glen's class, by far the most challenging, and Serena and Yoonhi did tea in the lobby with a crowd of my friends. I'm debating the relative strengths of nap vs swim, and my daughter is doing the otaku thing with her new games from MBK.
If I do a swim, maybe I'll fit in my tuxedo again?
Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:14 AM
After a week of gun-metal skies, interrupted by the odd bit of brilliant blue, the heavens have opened.
We did the brunch today. I'd intended to miss it, but we suddenly realized that Clark had no idea of what brunch really should be. So, it was a matter of obligation.
After the four hour marathon everyone was content and it became apparent that my family needed to go for a massage.
And so, I enjoy the rain.
The best line today - Clark, while I'm explaining the strategy of eating the buffet "Great! Just what I need; an eating coach".
Maybe there's a career for me in that?
Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:30 AM
Since Peter's not much of a dessert guy, he asked me to do the pictures for Michael Laiskonis's Afternoon Tea, for which I joined Yoonhi, Serena and three others in the lobby of the Four Seasons. (This will be out of order, but Oh Well! )
(BTW, all of my photos are up at our Flickr account. Apologies for the crappy pictures...my husband has our good camera with him in Australia, and I have to make do with our old one. Yeah, that's my excuse.)
The menu, as sent to me by Peter a few weeks ago, was as follows:
Smoked Salmon “Croque Monsieur” (Warm/Live)
Spicy Chilled Tomato Water Consommé
Mushroom Tart, Parmagiano Reggiano
Prosciutto/Iberico Wrapped Melon/Fig, Balsamico
Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Oyster Gelée, Caviar
Torchon of Foie Gras, Dashi Gelée, Hijiki
Seared Beef Roulade
Roasted Shrimp, Mango, Cilantro
Caramel (Almond Sponge, Caramel Marmelade, Almond Nougatine, Caramel Glaçage)
Passion Fruit (Citrus Sponge, Ginger Vanilla Cream, Passion Fruit Gelée, White Spray)
Rose (Pistachio Biscuit, Raspberry Gelée, Fresh Raspberry)
Chocolate (Chocolate Sponge, Feuilletine, Dark Chocolate Glaçage)
Milk Chocolate (Chocolate Sponge, Cinnamon Caramel Cream, Dark Chocolate Spray)
Coconut (Chestnut Biscuit, Lemon Cream, Meringue)
Chocolate Caramel Peanut Tart
Vanilla Olive Oil Parfait, Avocado, Grapefruit
Strawberry Consommé, Tapioca Pearl, Basil Seed, Basil Gelée
Gianduja Parfait, Banana, Hazelnut, Honey
Yuzu Cream, Green Tea Biscuit, “Faux” Meringue
“Egg”: Milk Chocolate Pot de Crème, Caramel, Maple, Maldon Sea Salt
Soft Chocolate Ganache, Sweet Corn
Cinnamon Beignets, Apple “Shot”
Olive Oil Financier
Milk Chocolate-Star Anise
Dark Chocolate Sesame Praline Cream
White Chocolate-Banana Rum
Salted Caramel Palet d’Or
There were also ice creams, as well, which I didn't see on the original menu: a green tea (served with anko and palm sugar syrup), a coconut (served with caramelized pineapple and banana, I believe), and a vanilla, if I remember correctly.
The layout was very nice, with multiple smaller stands decorated with vegetation floating in big glass cylinders. Very elegant!
We scored a table close to the buffet, right next to the display for the "Egg" dessert:
These were individual blown-out eggshells, filled with a chocolate cream. The chef would finish filling them with a caramel mousse, drizzle on a bit of maple syrup, then finally add a few sprinkles of Maldon sea salt. Delicious!
The savories (clockwise from top): Prosciutto-wrapped Figs, Salmon Croque-Monsieur, Roasted Shrimp, and Cauliflower Panna Cotta.
All four were excellent. Yoonhi commented on the shrimp in particular-- the rich mango coulis was extremely mild (we thought it was egg yolk at first) and perfectly complemented the succulent shrimp. My personal favorite was the croque-monsieur: thinly-sliced smoked salmon, a mild cheese, and-- the perfect topper-- very finely chopped preserved lemon!
The rest of savories: Scallop Ceviche (off in the top left corner), then (clockwise from top) the Tomato Water Consomme, Torchon of Foie Gras, and Mushroom Tart.
Again, all very good. Of these four, the tomato water consomme was my least favorite-- tasty, and good for cutting the richness of the foie gras, but nothing that special. The scallop ceviche was served in scallop shells atop a pile of salt mixed with star anise and pink peppercorns.
On to the sweet stuff!
Cinnamon "Beignets" and Apple Shot:
Strawberry Consomme, Tapioca Pearl, Basil Seed, Basil Gelee:
It's amazing how well strawberries and basil go together. The addition of the gelatinous sweet basil seed here (a local favorite) was a nice touch.
Vanilla Olive Oil Parfait, Avocado, Grapefruit:
This was my favorite of all the desserts on offer: the three flavors tasted great individually, but all went together so well that the entire thing just made me smile.
Assorted small bite-size things:
On my plate (the above picture) are a lemon cookie, a macaroon, an olive oil financier, a dark chocolate bonbon, an apple/lychee jelly, and some redcurrants just for fun. All were very pleasant to nibble on-- but the bonbon, which was filled with a black sesame praline cream, was quite possibly the best truffle I have ever tasted. The use of sesame complimented the chocolate perfectly. I could have eaten a couple dozen of these...
And, of course, you can't have a tea without scones and clotted cream!
(With some Chocolate + Sweet Corn Ganache, rhubarb preserves, and lemon curd on the side.)
The scones on offer were of two types, candied cherry + ginger or chocolate. They were dense, moist, buttery and perfect.
I do confess that with everything else on offer, I never got to the large-scale items, such as the "Chocolate" and "Rose" confections. But I certainly didn't go hungry!
Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:57 AM
Until now, I've been thinking, "WGF...I'd like to go," but after seeing that afternoon tea, I'm thinking, "Oh my god! WHY didn't I skip work and go to the WGF?!?!??!?!?!?!"
I'm not huge on sweets (contrary to popular belief), but I do love a good Afternoon Tea, and I've always wanted to try Michael Laiskonis' egg dessert.
This was the perfect afternoon tea...and I missed it!
I'm soooo jealous!