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basque

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  1. I would absolutely love to test, but I'm far from a full-fledged vasco. My mom is a first-generation American (maiden name Antxustegi) whose parents came from Andorra and San Sebastian, and I used to cook on the line for Judy Rogers, Wolfgang Puck, and others. Been making charcuterie at home for years, but haven't tried a chistorra yet. Would love to talk more if you're interested and need any help at all!
  2. Very happy to hear it! Can you give us a teaser - any beef, or all-pork in your recipe?
  3. Fantastic to hear, Jeff. Best of luck and I'll stay tuned in to learn about a drop date for the book. BTW, I agree Spanish cured meat is 'next' so I'm psyched to see your role in this.
  4. Please let me know your opinion: Last night I cooked Berkshire bone-in pork chops (from Ottomanelli in NYC) and feel I overcooked them (both temp and time) partially due to a timing problem w/ our guests. The chops were bone-in, hand-cut by the butcher to about 1.5" thick, resulting in about 3/4 lb each. Using a 30-qt rice cooker and an Auber PID, I planned to cook them for an hour at 144F. At an hour we were not ready to eat, so rather than pull/chill/re-heat for service, I chose to drop temp to 140F for the 30-40 minutes required before I could take them out and sear. They were very good, still pink on the interior (though not as pink/rare as I'd have liked). My questions: Was 144F for an hour too high and/or too long to begin with, and that's why they were overcooked? Secondly, is the technique of dropping temp for a period of time possibly helpful or just ill-advised? Does it accomplish anything (so long as healthy guidelines are maintained)? Thanks.
  5. basque

    Dim Sum in Oakland

    Most people try Jade Villa at least once - easy to find and decent but not really 'great'. I mention it in order to discourage you (your dad, I guess) from going there based on others' personal or print recommendations. This is just my view, and I've only been twice, but I don't think it's good. I think the food is unquestionably better at Peony or Legendary Palace. If your dad's not into driving around forever, there's probably no better place than Peony - it'll be very good food, it's a big fun dim sum house, and there's parking right below. Let us know where he ends up going and how it was. Peony 388 Ninth St. Oakland 510-286-8866 Jade Villa 800 Broadway Oakland 510-839-1688
  6. So, I only have this one visit, but my view is that this is a really special place that has the potential of spawning/reinvigorating a couple novel movements in a few other cities. My background: I'm quiet on eGullet - a v. infrequent poster - but I do split my time each year between NYC and San Francisco and eat out often in a lot of US and worldwide cities (lucky business traveler) as well as make food with friends a lot (I used to work in Postrio's and Zuni Cafe's kitchens and some artisinal bakeries, too, so that experience is built in here). In this wonderful city I've been to Trotter's and Bayless's and Trio and Tru and a lot of other spots, but I might have enjoyed Avec as much or more as any of them. When I arrived with my friend (he had been twice before) we were only offered bar seats, which was fine - 7:45pm on a Tuesday and that's all that was available. It's true that the fluorescent lights above the long-ish semi-communal tables were just weird - and I can only imagine they'd be downright annoying if above you - but that can be fairly easily/inexpensively corrected. The 360 degrees of untreated cedar paneling helped soften the lighting and the noise, which was pretty loud with happy folks enjoying their experience. This place without the warm wood cocoon could only offer a lesser experience, but the bulbs above the tables do need to be changed. Thanks to the recommendations I received here (thanks again, all, part. tarka!), we tried everything suggested and more. A few outstanding characteristics of all the dishes we had: First, there are claims that these are rustic, peasant dishes, but the subtle refinement in planning and obvious skill in putting them together really makes them about as good as they can be. This is not to be underappreciated - I bet there's a lot more thinking behind every dish and the overall service experience than most people would customarily know. Everything we had just loved the wine our server paired with it. Second - the small dishes are not that small. Third - the prices are just great - most of the small dishes are under $10. Their house-cured olives are perfect, and bread is an individual ciabatta warmed in the wood-burning oven. I'd be happy with this combination - and one of the Spanish whites - alone for an hour or two while I chatted with my dining mate. The chorizo-stuffed medjool dates are wrapped in thin, crispy bacon (you get four large ones) and sit in a pool of perfectly creamy red pepper sauce. This dish is really excellent - a little spice in the chorizo, sweet density of the dates, and salty crispiness in the bacon wrapper. The homemade salumi comes on a paper-covered wood block - there were five different kinds of sausages, thinly-sliced cured pork, and pistachio-heavy mortadella - about five thin slices of each type. Cornichons and caperberries are piled on the side, along with a spicy homemade red-wine mustard in a little porcelain crock. Just excellent. I think it was $11 - insanely perfect. When I worked in Postrio's charcuterie, making stuff for Spago and the other restaurants, I'd honestly dream of doing just this thing - make the delicate dishes look rough and make the rough dishes look pretty. The pea-shoot crostini (with a dressed bitter green and lots of parm shavings on top) was also excellent - nice, clean taste - three big slabs of (lightly toasted! this is the kind of thinking I'm referring to here) bread for the pea-shoot puree. The octopus was excellent, also. The cast-iron wood-fired dish had four small-ish sets of legs - all eight legs together! - where the body diameter would have been about three inches (so not that small, really) - very tender, thumb-thick legs with a wonderful inky taste, in a tomato-shallot-other-stuff sauce. Can't be made any better, I don't think. The focaccia was also as good as it could be: About six-by-nine inches, thin and crispy, sliced in half and loaded with a calculated amount of warm taleggio cheese and truffle oil. This is good wine-drinking food. Excellent wine-drinking food. We had a few more just-as-rocking dishes, but I don't see why I wouldn't want to get these five or six little plates every time I went back. We also finished with a cheese plate - our server chose them based on our request (start with a funky goat or sheep, and get some stinky, nasty stuff too, please). She had some Garrotxa and a semi-soft Spanish sheep's milk - Torta-del-Casar - and something like an Epoisses (Trou de Cru?) at the end of the line. The Casar and Trou weren't on the menu. Wine - as mentioned by earlier posters, there are a lot of unknown estates. I chose the only Albarino to start, but then we put ourselves in our server's hands for the rest of the meal. She nailed everything, this very casual, funny, totally-unpretentious-and-how-does-she-know-so-much-about-wine server. What was great - really unique and wonderful - was the 250ml cruets. Most were priced around $10-$12, which was really excellent. She also had a few wines not on the list - including the French Bordeaux and the 20 yr tawny port she sat next to the cheese. I need to wrap this up, but here are the two things I found so great and that I think have the potential to change the way a lot of aspiring restaurants need to recalibrate themselves: 1. Laid-back "enjoy yourselves, but check this out" style of knowledge on the part of everyone walking the restaurant floor (our busboy, overhearing us talking about the chorizo-stuffed dates: "those are pretty solid, huh?, like if they didn't get the bacon so crispy it wouldn't be as good, right?"). Where else do you get this, especially when the food's a rocket? 2. The inexpensive and really good wines, all well-known by your server, decanted from the bottle in front of you into the 1/3 bottle cruets. This is a killer. Just outstanding. It's something that's still new to most people, it works, it makes you feel special, it allows you to try more variety and learn something. It's just excellent. On paper, this place is maybe Casa Mono in NY or Cesar in Berkeley - except neither is nearly as good. At Avec you get to have a relaxed, really enjoyable meal with some great new wine and you get to observe the staff all having a lot of fun giving it to you. Our total tab for eight plates and five wines including the port was $140 before tip - I tip too much normally, but very happily on this night, and it was still around $175. On a daily basis, we'd order less food and wine, of course. Chicagolanders - you are lucky people!
  7. Any experience-related info would be appreciated on either the wood-burning oven side of the menu or the wines - I'm going tonight. Thank you.
  8. basque

    Starwich Salads & Sandwiches

    Judging by their website, the 'story' seems to be weighted toward Choice and Technology. Or at least one gets the sense that in developing the site these were top priority site goals, which presumably should serve the company's goals and overall mission. These are fine components to advertise among a handful of others, but should they be leading the Starwich story that way? They can craft the story any way they like, and you'd think they'd want to let the more challenging parts (challenging to the customer, that is - choice and technology) sit as background killers, not leaders. Doesn't really appeal to the hankering we all have lingering somewhere in our minds which FG expressed above ("You know, for a couple bucks more..."). You want those bucks to go to a unique food quality, right? Something unusual and above par, or fresher than most, or evocative of a foreign destination's food experience or signature treat. At least that's how I look at it. And granted, I'm basing this on a website experience only as I don't yet have the location experience, but I'm suggesting that maybe some of the early negativity is informed by this perception of Starwich's positioning choices. I believe the SF place JAZ refers to is Specialty's - an excellent little word-of-mouth chain whose 'story' is the bread. The full name of the place is Specialty's Cafe & Bakery, so this makes sense, but what's most impressive and compelling is the bread oven, cooling racks, and intense smell that hits you the moment you walk in (or by). I'm sure Starwich will be great when I try it, but right now my expectations are geared toward the 130 ingredients and lots of technology and I'd rather be anticipating my extra bucks going to either my food or an overall unique food experience.
  9. basque

    The Spotted Pig

    I'm ready for it. And a lot of my pals are, too. Aren't you? I'm planning to sustain myself there as much as I can. April rocks. Better than anything was T's defense of Laurent Manrique -- I recall a mid-90's call of the Batterberry's demise. Long live the Batterberry's!!! How in the hell did that article get in there? I'm in awe.
  10. I'm still working on this one. It's become a game of western chess, with a 10-minute clock. I'll start a thread just as soon as I'm sure I'll lose.
  11. basque

    Best coffee/espresso in the world

    I'm taking Owen's question literally and responding with my favorite coffee experience. I was working at a Peet's in Los Altos (SF Bay Area) during a winter break home from college, and had decided two weeks earlier to give up coffee with a co-worker. I had successfully managed this same high-stakes gamble while working at a Diedrich's the previous summer in Costa Mesa, both times calculating that a forced caffeine detox following finals week at school was some good body business at any time of year. The problem with the Peet's experience was that there are few atmospheres more wanting of the reflexive holding and drinking of a steaming cup of good coffee than the magical four o'clock dusk hour surrounded by crisp winter air, grocery bags and wine bottles nearby, with plans for making dinner with friends at the ready. The sight of leeks in the bag alone begs alertness and the initiation of a plan, doesn't it? So maybe it was a conditioned response to my nervousness at starting the dinner shift when I used to cook on the line, feeling I'd benefit from the cerebral boost of the caffeine, but witnessing so many happy customers walk around with their coffees while I had to stay on the other side of the counter--as if through bars, two weeks into my sentence--was all I could take. My manager said it was all right if I left a couple hours early, so I stamped my time card, called my girlfriend, my best friend and his girlfriend, asked them all to meet me at Shaub's Meat, Poulty & Fish next to Stanford's Oakville Grocery in 30 minutes, folded my apron and put it on the shelf, took a reading on the clarity of my menu-making thoughts and confirmed that I needed some creative calibration, and sort of half-floated, half-sneaked back up to the espresso machine. Being accustomed to making coffee drinks as quickly as possible during the rush, it was awfully enjoyable to move slowly and create a little ceremony. I warmed the demitasse with boiled, filtered water from the teapot, warmed the double portafilter with the same water, tamped it with real Arabian Mocha-Java (which I had serendipitously chosen that afternoon as my bean choice), and pulled a nice, long espresso (the tailing bitterness on the MJ is required). I drank it while enjoying a brief chat with my manager, someone I liked a great deal, fully aware that I was somehow bridging reality with a dream state, yet not sure of the optimal sequence or which one belonged where. The conversation over, the cold bulb of my brain aided in its re-blooming by the espresso, I then welcomed what has surely been the most enjoyable solitary bike ride (up to Palo Alto to meet my friends) I've ever had. P.S. We seared some sea scallops (with walnut oil-dressed bitter greens, I think--this was about ten years ago) and made a coq au vin.
  12. Peets. Peets. Peets. In fact, I just did a quick search, and I'm surprised to see so (relatively) few mentions of Peets in the C&T forum. It's interesting how beverage taste is arguably much more subjective than savory taste, isn't it?
  13. basque

    New York

    Nice articulation early on in a potentially unruly thread, Fat Guy. Forgive my laziness, but have you all attempted to put a cube around a relative weighting and ranking of food regions elsewhere on eGullet? If not, I think it would be good. Do-able, too. Attribute weights to: Pan-Location (Local) vs. International Seasonal vs. Repetitive Innovative vs. Traditional For its time vs. ahead of its time Supportive vs. Agnostic toward local farmers/farming/agri-/aqua-culture High price point only vs. achieving quality across price points What else? Not meat vs. veg, please, on account of the sheer insanity of the premise. This'd probably be just an academic exercise, but I bet we'd be challenged by the results. And many of us would find ourselves more strongly committed to regional areas we love, but with a defined, _objective_ reason now. Discl: I live in NYC.
  14. basque

    Basque Cookbooks

    I just returned from San Sebastian last night (to NYC) and brought a copy of the 2003 Pil-Pil Prizes. I don't know anything about the distributor's ability to ship to the US, but an email for the house (Editorial Zendrera Zariquiey) is given as editorialzendrera@writeme.com. This is the eighth annual edition of the book, titled "La Creatividad en la Cocina Vasca" in the Castillano version I bought, and is, in my opinion, as flawless as the earlier editions. The small-ish but heavy book has a nice glossy picture of nearly all the award-winning plates, and includes a detailed, scaled recipe for four plates based on direct interviews with chef. It doesn't include your egg/flower plate, but it does have recipes for dishes won by Arzak, Akelarre, Berastegui, Mugaritz, Zuberoa, and lots of others. If you can get it, you will be happy paying $100 but I think mine was 30 Euros. Best of luck with your dinner party, AmyH! If you have a specific dish from a place that might be in the book (and can read Spanish) I'm happy to scan/email. As for Hirigoyen and his book, I would suggest he and his wife did a fine American translation of the foods and styles of preparation he clearly remembers well. He is from a town only a few miles from where my grandmother grew up, and the recipes give me a taste that is very nice if localized to California markets, and definitely reminds me of how we ate growing up in the tiny Basque area of San Francisco (now Chinatown). Of course, I didn't grow up in the pays basque, so I only know how my family translated their experiences, and it feels like Hirigoyen made good on his promise in the introduction to do the same. There are plenty of French Basque things in there, and yes it seems they're often bent by his years cooking in Paris, so they won't fully match your San Sebastian experience. But nowhere does he hold the book out to be representative of modern Spanish Basque cooking; in fact, I think he thanks J.M. Arzak and says he considers him the godfather of Basque cuisine. The earlier comment that 95% of Basque kitchens today are based on Spanish Basque cooking is wonderful and amusing, but I think it's either missing an adjective or a few thousand years' history.
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