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Everything posted by wnissen

  1. I've only been to Bistro Clovis a couple of times, but I love that place! The food, wine, and service are all very, very good, and it's easy walking distance to both Davies and the Orpheum. But the Chronicle reviewer in several places seemed to damn the "classics" with faint praise, which is crazy talk. If it tastes good, it's good, in my opinion. From http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c...DDG347EO0O1.DTL I don't deny that there is a heavy emphasis on stuff you would see at a real bistro, but it's a really good pâté. He doesn't say whether either of these dishes are any good. Haven't had these, so I can't comment. The foie gras appetizer ($18?) is delicious, though. It may be an old-school dish, but that boeuf bourguignonne is absolutely fantastic. It perfectly combines an intense winey flavor with the savory, perfectly tender beef, and the potatoes are great. The cassoulet I had was not at all a paste, that must have been an off-night. I don't have much experience with cassoulet, but I loved mine, beans, meat, and crispy seasoned bread crumb crust. [Makes satisfied yummy noises] OK, this we agree on. The salmon tastes, smells, and looks great. The anise, basil, everything works. Again, I haven't had this. I disagree that this is textbook. When my wife and I were honeymooning in France, we usually ordered dessert. My wife doesn't like the cheese plate or fromage blanc, so tarte tatin was a pretty usual choice for us. We never had one that tasted like this. First, it's an entire tart, maybe ten inches across, and the crust is crispy, almost like a cracker with dark caramel drizzled all over. I'm used to a soft pielike crust with caramel baked in. Nonetheless, it is a delicious interpretation, faithful to the original's flavors. And the crème fraîche is a nice touch; more durable than ice cream, and cutting rather than enhancing the sweetness. The soup was good if unremarkable, but PEAR SORBET HE COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT?!? I don't think so. That pear sorbet was a perfect little jewel, a ripe ball of pure pear essence. It was a foil to the buttery richness of the bread pudding. I realize that the review has very limited space (it's only 614 words), but there are some major omissions, in my opinion. First, the wine list rocks! Yes, it is nearly impossible for the novice, almost completely French and in French, which is a problem. However, it has excellent selections from good value regions, like Santenay or Gigondas, and I haven't had a bad bottle yet. Temperature control is a weakness; we had to ask for an ice bucket for our Burgundies because they were 70F or so. Plus, they have a by-the-glass theme that rotates. I've seen a Loire flight and a southern Rhone flight, complete with little explanations of the geography and style. Second, they have fine specials, typically a soup and a meat course. We've had really good pea soup, and really good seared halibut in a red-wine sauce. So, that's my opinion. I really like Bistro Clovis. It's not cheap, but I've had two wonderful meals there, and would go back again. So, anyone else have an experience to share? Walt Edit to remove unnecessary blank lines.
  2. Yup, back on page 2. I actually think they taste pretty good, decently creamy, if not like real ice cream. They're also a satisfying portion. I really like it when Wal-Mart gets in a fresh shipment, and the cookie is actually crispy. What can I say, I like the young cookies! Walt
  3. Mmm, pickles! I don't know very much about Japanese food beyond sushi, but I have always loved the various pickled items served as garnishes. Looking forward to there rest of the week! Walt
  4. I think Carolyn and I have a lot in common when it comes to ice cream novelties. My first love is anything with a gumball stuck in it. It's two, two treats in one! First runner up is strawberry shortcake, followed by almost any kind of ice cream sandwich, but I really love them all. The ice cream man in our neighborhood is not a Good Humor man, so I don't buy a lot from him. Instead most of the time my wife and I get Skinny Cows, which are very tasty low-cal ice cream sandwiches. I have no idea how they pack that much creaminess and ice cream into 130 calories, but they do. Oh, and I insist on getting my treats home while they are still frozen solid as well. In these days of frost-free freezers, I don't need to help the recrystalization along any more. Oh, god, now I need to go downstairs and get a sandwich out of the vending machine. Walt
  5. I think that's the most eerie, disgusting thing I've ever read about food. My French isn't that great, but a translation might be: "The crust is transformed little by little in the area of fermentation, and is covered with a viscous skin, grey or grey-pink, responsible for the very strong putrid odor, characteristic of the cheese." Wow, I feel a little queasy just writing that. Walt
  6. Thought this would be an appropriate place to post on an incident with a stinky cheese. We had our three-year-old wedding cake in the fridge thawing, so we could try a piece and throw it out. Unfortunately, we had left the flowers on it originally, and they spoiled, even in the freezer. So the leftover smell from the flowers permeated the fridge. Or so we thought. It turned out that the rather pungent off aroma was coming from a wheel of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk. I bagged it, and this morning, the smell was much improved. My wife, not meaning to make a joke, said: "Man, the fridge smells a lot better without the Red Hawk flyin' free!" Walt
  7. I have also concluded from extensive TV chef research that never in history has a chef badly burned an item and yelled "Oh, s***!" They're quite remarkable that way. But seriously, do we really want to pause for thirty seconds every time a sanitation handwash is required? Even the edit would be somewhat disruptive. I guess as long as people don't actually use a cutting board in an unsanitary way, I'm OK with it. Walt
  8. The navigation, especially with the market around the edge of the building, is a problem. Call it an embarrasment of riches. I asked three different vendors and at the Farmer's Market info desk if they knew were I could get Rancho Gordo beans, but I see upthread that I should have been in the Market Hall. Which CSA do you use? I'm not sure I'm yet willing to give up my Saturday morning shopping excursions, but I might try the delivery thing if I could get 6-7 lbs. of veggies and 3-4 lbs. of fruit on my doorstep every week! Walt
  9. I too enjoyed my time at the Ferry Market and Ferry Farmer's Market. Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam is now one of my favorite cheeses, for its combination of delicious creamy outside with a surprisingly stern, slightly crumbly inside. Wow. I also got a wheel of "happy underpants" cheese (rather crudely named p**** cheese on another board), so we'll see how that is. I also did the week's produce shopping. I was surprised at how hard it was to find vegetables. Most places had greens but not much else. I had to search for eggplants and green beans, and they were $5 a pound instead of $3 like at my usual farmer's market in Pleasanton. I guess I'd describe the whole thing as a candy store. If I were really wealthy, maybe I wouldn't mind the $6/lb. cherries, but when you factor in the crowds, prices, and the time it takes to get around the whole thing, I'll take the more modest Pleasanton market 95% of the time. Still, I can't deny the appeal of the atmosphere; it makes shopping feel special. And the Toad Hollow Peaches were absolutely incredible, at a time when the peaches available to me are just starting to come into their own. Walt
  10. It's not Parker's fault. If he didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him. The real problem is that the Bordelais can sell all their prestige wines before even 1% of the retailers have had a chance to taste. The primeur system forces people to rely on the palates of critics tasting absurdly young, unbottled wines in order to make purchasing decisions. I'll buy a few bottles untasted, but if you've got the time and interest, nothing beats trying wines yourself. Walt
  11. I have the Minolta Dimage X20, which is basically the 2MP version of the Dimage XT. I regard it as a near-perfect pocket camera. Since the optical zoom lens is inside, you get a super-fast startup time and no worries about breaking it. This camera allows a 3" / 8cm focal length for macro shooting. My big complaint about it for food photography is that it doesn't do well in low light. In general, tiny pocket cameras will not do well at this because their objective (main) lenses are tiny as well. Luckily with digital images it is easier to bump the contrast on an underexposed shot. In general, I prefer AA batteries as a power source, because, for the Dimage X20 at least, 4 NiMH AAs will last for a few hundred exposures. Also, when on vacation, I don't need to worry about a charger or a spare battery, because I can just buy more AAs. Walt
  12. Thanks very much to everyone who contributed! I put it in the oven, which was able to get 225F without too much trouble, and did my best to both cover and let the juices drip. I left it wrapped in foil, but upside down on a rack so the fat could drip off. You can see in the picture the fat pooling in the pan, which I decided to re-use because it never technically got "clean" from last time. Then I basically left it except for a coupla three temperature checks, and let it bake for three hours. It was supposed to be two, but there was a miscommunication between my wife and I before I left for Costco. Anyway, I tried the three hour pork, and was much happier with the result. Nearly as moist, but much better texture! I definitely prefer the more-cooked version; the old one was good but really felt like I was eating raw bacon, even though I knew that, microbiologically, it was cooked. Thanks much for saving my shoulder. Walt
  13. OK, more slow cooking it is! Thanks for your help. The recipe I found caled for a 4 lb. pork shoulder roast. Actually, I finally figured out how to link to the recipe (stupid pop ups!) http://www.nimanranch.com/recipes/porkReci...orkShoulder.htm I'm a little surprised that they would call it long-cooked when it's only 35 minutes a pound. Oh, can I just let the fat run off, or should I elevate the shoulder? Thanks again, Walt
  14. I picked up a Niman Ranch pork shoulder the other day, and decided to do my first slow-cooking of a roast. Niman had a recipe on their website, from Chez Panisse, that called for roasting in an earthenware dish at 400F for 2.5 hours for a 4 lb. roast. I figured I would do a lower temperature on my grill, and throw in some wood chips to add a hint of smoke. However, the result was not notably tender, parts of the interior are still 50% fat (like bacon would be), and the bottom was cooked to an inedible crust. Is there any way to fix this (besides the crust)? To be specific, I rubbed a tied roast with a lot of salt, some pepper and sage, and let it rest for 40 minutes in the fridge. I put it in the middle of my gas grill, and turned the front and back burners to low. This yielded a temperature of about 300F in the grill. After two hours or so, it started to drip and flare up, so I put it in a cast iron skillet. I had a probe in it the whole time (starting from 40F), and did see a pause around 170F. I finished it at 350F or so, and it reached 180F internal after 3.5 hours. Somewhere in the middle there I ran out to Safeway to buy wood chips, and put them in a foil packet between the burner and the grill. They smoked, but I read now that smoke stops entering after the skin temperature reaches 140F or so, so that explains the lack of smoke flavor on the inside. Still, I was expecting more of the fat to render out, and a really tender texture (I am slicing against the grain). It didn't exactly happen. Can I put this baby in the oven at 220 and render out some of the fat? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Walt
  15. Finally got a chance to try the Ferry Market in San Francisco, and got some good stuff: Toad Hollow peaches (wow) and cherries, pink "heirloom" hardneck garlic, and Russian fingerling potatoes. White nectarines, two pints strawberries (uneven, but very good), raspberries. Fantastic looking and tasting dandelion greens, large green beans, perfect small globe eggplants, and from Cowgirl Creamery, a wheel each of Mt. Tam and Red Hawk. For lunch, I had a half-wheel of Mt. Tam, which was perfectly creamy on the outside and just firm on the inside. The highlight of my day. Ate it at the wine bar, with a 375mL carafe of 2003 l'Hortus rose' (I think it was Coteaux du Languedoc). Also left with a jar of rhubarb preserves (hard to find without strawberries), a piece of un-nitrated ham and a 3 lb. pork shoulder from Niman Ranch. Then I lugged everything a mile down the road to my parking space outside Dee Vine Wines. :) So, to answer melkor's question above, I would say that the Ferry Market quality is better than Pleasanton, for sure. If you want organic, it's definitely the place to go. However, I have two complaints. First, everyone had greens and fruit, but veggies seemed a little hard to come by. Not that they weren't there, but the market is so big that even if one stand has them, you might not spot it. Second, I would go broke buying $6 a pound peaches and $2.50/lb organic squash. I've come to regard shopping at the Pleasanton market as an essential, affordable luxury, but going from $50/week to $100 is something I would have to consider. It was great fun to visit, and I really like being able to get meats and cheeses, and having access to the top-quality stuff is a great option, but I'm not sure I'd want to live there. If money were no object, it'd be heaven on earth. Walt
  16. Carolyn, That is exactly the thought I have whenever I think about the Everyflavor bean series. Some poor, poor sucker (presumably with a good palate) had to evaluate the vomit flavors, and come up with just the right mix. "Hmm, not vomitous enough, add more ???" I've tried all the Everyflavors at least twice, except for the vomit. I had one bean, and it was bad. So very, very bad. I would also like to put in a plug for the factory tour. It's in Fairfield, CA, up US 80 a ways toward Sacramento, and is free. Try to go during the week, because the factory doesn't operate on the weekends (they show videos instead). It's so much more fun to see them panning, drying, packaging, boxing, etc. No matter when you go, you can go to the tasting bar and try any flavor you want, including vomit. Plus, you can go to the Jelly Belly cafeteria, and enjoy mediocre hamburgers and pizzas, in the shape of jelly beans. Stupid, I know, but... jelly beans! It makes me happy just saying it. Tour info: http://jellybelly.com/Cultures/en-US/Fun/Tours/ And, if you're in Fairfield, the Budweiser factory is there, and offers tours, although only once an hour, I believe. Not as fun as Jelly Belly because the factory is almost deafeaning with the clank of bottles and roar of machinery, but they wisely serve beer before the tour. :) Walt Edit to fix my link.
  17. Hello, can anyone say: river water? Try looking at it under a microscope, and you will see uncountable numbers of arthropods of all types. Suddenly river water isn't kosher? Please tell me the is a prank. Edit: Wait, I read to the end of the IHT article, and now I'm coming to like the Schroedinger's Cat-style dilemma. If you can't tell with any given swallow whether you've ingested traif, have you really done it? Even the folks selling bug-free produce can only guarantee some fixed, finite amount of cleanliness. It seems that that's the same situation. But seriously, stuff grows in your pipes, and inside water filters. It's impossible to avoid ingesting these things in any real-world setting. All the people going out and buying water filters are just reducing their intake from 100 invisible bugs per drink to 5 invisible bugs per drink. Walt
  18. Clearly, asking for cash payments for the drinks is just poor. That says, we expect you to steal from us by leaving without paying your bar tab. That's the first time I've ever heard of anything like that. I agree that one can't ask the staff to work their regular shifts without good tips, but the point is that not all are needed for a buffet service where most of the work is dealing with drinks and empty plates, rather than order taking, food bringing, dessert order taking on top of everything else. I still like the idea of a cancellation fee, but the no-cancellation thing is pretty stupid, as is the rest of the restaurant. Walt
  19. Eh, I'm more bothered by the mandatory excessive gratuity on a buffet tab than by the cancellation fee. I'd rather see a cancellation charge of 75% if you cancel less than 24 hours before, but I prefer having some fee to the current system. Responsible people only cancel reservations on short notice in case of a genuine emergency, no? I don't care to subsidize people who don't show up, simply because it's slightly difficult and uncomfortable to call and do so. Walt
  20. wnissen

    Wines of the Century

    Wait, I think I have the analogy. This event is almost exactly like a "Destinations of the Century" world tour. At each stop, you are driven from the airport to the destination, say the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall, Grand Canyon, and permitted to look around briefly. Then you are whisked off (I guess each participant would be in a Hummer limo with the windows tinted black) to the airport to leave for the next stop. Certainly, it would be fun for those few minutes, and you might even come back with some vivid memories of a few spots, but on the whole it's a waste of time and jet fuel. Walt
  21. wnissen

    Wines of the Century

    Exactly. Get five friends together for dinner at Per Se, and six bottles of the wines you've always wanted to try. Then, maybe, you could begin to appreciate them. Great wines are great because they make a lasting impression. If the experience of a wine drops from memory before dinner is even over, I don't care if it is wine made by God for you personally, that is not a great wine. Period. The most you can say with honesty is that you consumed a liquid that given proper appreciation might be a great wine. The more I think about this event, the more it pisses me off. I guess I should count my blessings that I'm not driven to try these wines just for the sake of being able to brag about it. Walt
  22. wnissen

    Wines of the Century

    They say they will have two bottles of each wine. Assuming no ullage and no loss to sediment, that's 1.27 oz. per person. Isn't enjoying a taste of the century's greatest wines for a few minutes the definition of masochism? It's like listening to the "World's Greatest Symphonies Selections," where you get a personal performance from the finest orchestra in the world of fifty symphonies, allotted five minutes each. Would be fun as a novelty, but mainly it seems like a joke. Give me one great performance of Mahler's fifth, or of Chave, please. Walt
  23. wnissen


    Just a note for those of you who follow this sort of thing, the December Euro futures (i.e., an agreement to buy Euros at a fixed price this coming December) are roughly constant. That means that the markets feel the chance of a decline is about equal to the chance of an increase. So hopefully we won't see 1.40 or 1.00 anytime soon. Walt
  24. Camped last weekend, so this was a bit of catching up. Apples, a variety that's a cross of Gala and Fuji Apriums, an apricot-dominant cross, wonderfully ripe Asparagus (not as crisp as usual; a bunch from Safeway last week was better) Broccoli Cauliflower Celery Criminis Cherries, (!) first of the season, although of four stands only the $4 a pint organic ones were good. I bit. Garlic (still reveling in the fact that garlic is fresh now) Lemongrass Onions Shallots Strawberries, labeled as "Red Heart", the first this year good enough to demand a half-flat. Not sweet but mature and yummy. Swiss chard Tomatoes, starting to get really good, though still $2.50 a pound Zucchini squash Not shown: California Halibut (was absolutely delectable) Grape juice, unfiltered and unpasteurized Later we went to the Livermore Wine Country Festival, which was formerly the "Days of Wine and Honey." Not a farmer's market, more a bazaar with wine tasting and rides, but lots of producers. Got a lb. of honey from Home Town Honey of Walnut Creek, CA that was extremely buttery, a lb. of delightfully minty honey from Brown's Busy Bees of Livermore, CA, and a half pound of nearly transcendent orange blossom honey from Walls Honey Farm of Soquel, CA. I also learned that an olive oil certified by the California Olive Oil Council has a small date on the label, so you can tell (roughly) the year of harvest. Good on them. A good week. bleudauvergne, your pictures are just gorgeous. I love my market, but it only sells produce, not works of art. Asparagus is US$2/lb. here, and not only do the nice folks size it, but they let you pick which size you want, from skinny minnies to huge 2cm stalks. Walt
  25. Craig, Isn't the "fraction" here pretty darn close to 1.0? I realize that it's Decanter doing this reporting, but, as an example, II received a mailer the other week from Dee Vine Wines offering a 2001 Weingut Erben von Beulwitz Kaseler Nies'chen Eiswein for US$220 / EUR185 a half. That's just the first "high-end" eiswein I could find a price for, and I'm pretty sure that they sell for on the order of US$400. These would be auction wines, but since many (most?) of the best eisweinen are sold at auction, I don't think you can really exclude them. Just curious if you or anyone else can comment on the Decanter claim. Walt
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