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Everything posted by vengroff

  1. I hope it's not too off-topic: Was anyone else bothered when AB pulled out an electric knife to carve the roast? It seemed a strangely out-of-character thing for him to do. I would have expected a nice carving knife and an admonishment to keep it sharp. Didn't electric knives go out with fondue pots in the 70's? I was under the impression that only the latter had made a comeback.
  2. Dale, I salute your commitment to fresh ingredients and classic service behind the bar. Unfortunately, it's clear that many bar managers disagree, even at the upper end of the price spectrum. I can imagine the first reaction many might have to your way of doing things is, "So what about my cost controls? Right out the window?! I'll be out on the street in six months...." How do you go about making your case in these circumstances? Can it be done, or do you generally only work with establishments that have made a commitment to quality from the top? Thanks again for joining us.
  3. Suzanne, Thanks for the review. A question about omeletes: Does Peterson specifcally recommend a non-stick pan as your review implies? Does he discuss the classical techniques for seasoning, using, cleaning, and caring for a non-non-stick (sic) omelet pan? I tend to use a non-stick pan slow-cooked scrambled eggs, but not for omeletes or other quick egg dishes. For a 2-1/2 egg omelete, (2 eggs, 1 white) I use an 8" stainless steel pan. Works like a champ 95% of the time. What do others think?
  4. Dear Mr. DeGroff, Thank you for taking the time to join us on eGullet. Today, we find a new generation of bartenders who are experimenting with a variety of homemade herbal infusions, interesting fruits, vegetables, and their juices. I'm thinking, for example, of Eben Klemm at Pico in Tribeca. His ingredients include rosemary, hibiscus, ginger, kumquat and cucumber. One might be tempted to argue that we in America just rediscovering the age-old European art of flavoring spirits, from the aquavits of the north to the grappas of the south. However, I think we are seeing something a little different, as many of the infusions are not intended to be consumed alone, but instead are the fonds for specific mixed drinks. What is your opinion of this approach to the art of the cocktail? Do you enjoy this sort of drink? Is it revolutionary? Is it here to stay, or just the flavor of the month?
  5. vengroff

    Chowders in General

    Before disassembling the lobster, you can dispatch it with a chef's knife. Depending on the nature of your squeamishness, you may find this better or worse than just pulling it apart Iron Chef style. Place the lobster on a cutting board and locate the cross-shaped indentation on the top of the head. Insert the tip of the knife in the center of the cross and cut down through the head and between the eyes. This should bring a relatively quick end to the squirming.
  6. Dear Chef Ripert, Thank you for taking the time to join us on eGullet. I understand that in preparing A Return to Cooking, you travelled to different regions of the country and prepared meals in home kitchens with seasonal local ingredients. At Le Bernardin, you have access to some of the best raw ingredients from top suppliers. I was hoping you could compare and contrast what is available to the dedicated home cook, versus what fine restaurant kitchens are able to source. Feel free to comment on both quality and variety as it applies to seafood, produce, meat, dairy products, herbs, and/or whatever else you think would be particularly interesting or insightful to us.
  7. My wife was in DC recently for a friend's birthday dinner at Bistro Bis. She said it was the best meal she's had in DC. Not bad considering she has been to a number of the big names, e.g. Equinox, Red Sage, Kinkead's. It's in the Hotel George.
  8. I think the key factor at work here is familiarity. When it comes to food, most people will stick to what they know, whether or not it is tasty, fresh, brilliantly prepared, or nutritious by anyone else's standard. Unfortunately, what is most familiar to many people is mass-produced and well-marketed, but relatively tasteless. McDonalds is not in the food business. They are in the reliable, predictable experience business. Step into one of their stores anywhere in the world, and you know what your big mac is going to taste like. For a lot of people, this is easier than walking into an unfamiliar place and asking, "What's good?" Even the most adventurous among us long for the familiar from time to time. Consider Tony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour, an epic quest to find the perfect meal from among the world's many cuisines. By chapter 2, he's back in France searching for favorite flavors from his childhood. Generally, I'm not that bothered by those who stick to what they know, even if it is the lowest common denominator. It's their palate, after all. On the other hand, I don't think it is very hard to expand your friends' food horizons if you really wish to do so. A casual dinner party can be the perfect venue. Invite your guests into your kitchen and they will quickly see that an ingredient or dish they may have considered exotic is not only tasty, but also accessible. Who knows, maybe the next time you bring a pie to work they'll be first in line to carve off a big slice...
  9. Several people have mentioned wanting a second dishwasher. I'd love one too. More than anything, I'm looking for the flexibility to have prep dishes washing but still be able to load more dirty items as I generate them. Piling them up in the sink is just not a good option. Recently, I ran across an ad for a Fisher & Paykel double drawer dishwasher (Web Site: Fisher & Paykel). It seemed ideal for my small kitchen--two independent washing drawers in the space of a single standard dishwasher. I was intrigued enough to go look at one at a local dealer. Everything seemed good. The interiors of the drawers were remarkably large and the racks were reconfigurable to accomodate a variety of types and sizes of dishes. They also claim to be very quiet, although I was not able to run one to see. The only weak point I saw was that the racks are all plastic. They just don't look like they are built to last. I'd expect better in what otherwise appears to be a well designed and build product. Price is comparable to e.g. Miele. Does anyone have any experience with F&P products? I love the concept, but I'd like to hear more feedback before I plunk down the cash.
  10. vengroff


    The names, place and number above recently appeared in the windows of the ground floor of 66 Leonard St. (at the corner of Church St.). The interior is still under construction. Anyone have any details on what this space is destined to become? Is JGV going Chinese?
  11. vengroff


    I'm sure I've had the crab with creamy spicy sauce at Next Door. Perhaps it has been shuffled on or off the menu? I prefer the crab to the rock shrimp, which I find a bit on the heavy side. The squid pasta and oysters on the half shell are the standouts, in my opinion.
  12. The low point of the event had to be the discussion of sea urchin anatomy. Beavis and Butthead do kitchen stadium.
  13. Last time I went to the Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, we had some nice razor clams with black bean sauce. The clams were grilled just enough to open them, but leave them tender and slightly smokey tasting. Of course we also had soup dumplings. I like the big communal tables. It's usually fun to see the different approaches to ordering and eating the soup dumplings.
  14. I thought I'd pipe up with a quick note about an enjoyable solo dining experience I just had. Earlier today I spent a lovely ninety minutes sharing a table with a newspaper at City Hall. I ordered the old reliables--half a dozen Kumomoto oysters followed by a burger, medium-rare. I was pleasantly suprised when I was presented with a cup of split pea soup, compliments of the chef. None of the tables in my immediate viewing area were so treated, but none of them were solos. The soup itself was well-balanced. The taste was fresh and the texture was creamy without straying into the thick porridgy consistency that split pea soup too often does. Bonus points both for taste and service. Next up, the oysters. Six icy tidbits, each full of the clean cripsness of the Pacific. Three sauces were presented. The first two were the traditional horseradish cocktail sauce and mignonette of vinegar and shallots. The third was a cool fruity green puree. Turns out it was made with cucumbers and, although it did not taste spicy, Absolut pepar. I enjoyed one oyster with each of the sauces, and three with just a few drops of lemon. Every bit as excellent as I expected. Like a day trip to the ocean right in the heart of Tribeca. With the seafood out of the way, it was time for the meat of the matter. It was every bit as good as others have described it here on eGullet. Tender, and a perfect warm-centered medium rare. The real feature of this burger is the intensely beefy juiciness locked inside. It's more like what you expect from a glutinous cut that's been braised for hours. After the beef, each bite had a bold finish of black pepper. If you like steak of poivre, this is the burger for you. The french fries were of the 3/8" square-cut skin-on variety. Tender and lightly crispy, they would probably stand up well next to almost any burger. But this isn't any burger; it stands on its own. Finally, I decided to close out with a classic creme brulle. The surface was like an amber stained glass window. Unfortunately, the custard itself, while of excellent smooth texture, was a bit on the chilled side for my tastes. The three soft almond cookies that came on the side proved to be the winners of the dessert course. Service was friendly and attentive, from the moment I walked in and and was given a choice of three tables to the moment I left with with well wishes and an invitation to return. I've had dinner at City Hall on a number of the occasions, but this was both my first lunch and my first solo visit. I had never had the burger before, but certainly will again. The next time I have the rare pleasure of this much free time for lunch, I'll be back.
  15. I forgot one of my all time favorites, the ceramic vegetable peeler. Peeling with one of these things is quicker and easier than with anything else I've used.
  16. vengroff

    Blue Smoke

    I agree, but it's an especially big problem with barbeque. Imagine a radio ad, "Come on down to Chez Henri every Thursday for our all-you-can-eat fete d'escargot! Slurp down an endless supply of monster snails with our own special sauce--your choice of mild, medium, or super garlic explosion!" Now imagine a barbeque ad that doesn't sound something like that.
  17. vengroff

    Blue Smoke

    Why is there so much bad barbecue out there? I think it's because a lot of places put more emphasis on quantity than quality. It's a winning business strategy for many a Q-joint. A pile of dried out ribs falling off both ends of a big oval platter just does a lot more for some people than a nice plate of tender slow-smoked brisket. This is especially true if they come in at the same price point. Even the places that pride themselves on their meat, secret homemade rubs, and wood selection end up having to compete at least partially on quantity. My experience comes mostly from Texas. Things may be different elsewhere, but this thread leads me to think not.
  18. At least two kitchen towels are essential. One for grabbing hot pots and pans, one for wiping hands. I am also a big fan of the wooden reamer. Other favorite task-specific items include a potato ricer and a mandoline.
  19. vengroff


    As Clare indicated, salsify has to go into acidulated water immediately after peeling. It turns brown very quickly otherwise. A simple treatment that works well is to pan-roast the salsify in olive oil with rosemary, salt, and pepper. It goes well with lamb.
  20. vengroff

    City Hall

    City Hall's signature starter for a large group is the shellfish high rise. It comes in Empire State and Chrysler sizes. It's a selection of raw and chilled shellfish served on a multi-tiered tray of crushed ice. I've had some great oysters and clams, and some very good lobster and shrimp as part of this dish. Only the rubbery razor clams have been a disappointment. The roasted brussels sprouts are a hidden gem on the menu. They have crunchy sweet carmelized outer leaves and tender, almost melting, insides. I wouldn't think of dining at City Hall without ordering them.
  21. vengroff

    Suspicious Tuna

    At the risk of ruining a perfectly good thread, I'm going to take a crack at the original question. Could it be that the fish had been frozen, but not quickly enough? If so, ice crystals could have damaged the cellular structure, causing it to ooze when thawed. Regardless of cause, I wouldn't buy an oozing tuna steak any more than I would buy an oozing beef steak. Unless maybe I was planning to boil it...
  22. vengroff

    Boiled Beef

    Boiled beef just plain doesn't sound right. But I've had a couple of very good shabu shabus of paper-thin sirloin boiled tableside. For optimal eating, add a good selection of mushrooms, greens, spring onions, and a nice soy dipping sauce. At the end, you are left with a nice broth for noodles. The biggest problem with shabu shabu is that many people overcook the beef. It only takes a few seconds. Any more and you might as well not fish it out of the water at all.
  23. Frito pie was a regular feature of school lunches when I was growing up in Lubbock, Texas. Unfortunately, there was no bag, just a casserole of chili topped with cheese and fritos. I think Frito pie originated in the hill country around Austin and San Antonio. There were a couple of places in Austin still serving it last time I was there. The only thing more common than Frito pie at school was chicken-fried steak. It was always served with mashed potatoes, cream gravy, mushy green beans, and a fluffy white roll. Now that's West Texas comfort food.
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