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Robert Schonfeld

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Everything posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. I have a friend who's a butcher. An old timer. A big time old timer. Wears a gold cleaver for a tie bar. I once asked him who has the best steak in New York. He said Peter Luger, because every supplier will give them the first buy, and they always buy the very best of its kind that is available. He was talking about the Porterhouse. He said the only way to get a steak of the quality of Luger's, and to try your hand at prepearing it, is to buy one from them.
  2. All publishing companies have that as their mission whether they like it or not. This should not keep you from getting paid enough by one to buy Metro Cards.
  3. This is why I nominate you to write the book, or a collection of articles published in book form. You do write in French, don't you? I promise to be serious about thinking through the intellectual direction of cuisine, even if it doesn't always seem that way. No kidding around.
  4. I don't. I guess this is where we part ways, FG. I don't give too much of a damn about the intellectual direction of cuisine. I don't find it especially challenging and I don't think you do either. A few minutes reading your well-thought pieces here on egullet, and those of two or three others, follow a provided link or two, and I'm up to date on the intellectual direction of cuisine. I thank Steve Klc for this: "Why get hung up on defining Adria, boxing him in?" Indeed. Let's eat. PS: I will read the book if you will write it, FG. I and maybe five other people.
  5. My favorite quote from the Showalter article: "The next phase, perhaps, will be virtual or conceptual cuisine, where the food is not only deconstructed but imaginary." When a creative endeavor becomes a movement, or a school, or when it develops a devoted following of adherents and critics and media, it also develops a kind of gravitas, an inferred profundity that serves the interests of practitioner and acolyte alike. If I am uncomfortable with something here it is with too much talk and not enough eating. As has been pointed out, sometimes well, sometimes not, but pointed out repeatedly, it's not painting; it's not music. It's food. No question the man is an original. No question his influence is already upon us. No question we don't yet know what the kind or degree of that influence will be in the long term. And no question we'd all like to eat there. I'd rather not, however, eat with a notepad at my side and my fingertips pressed to my furrowed brow. Pleasure is the overarching criterion of a meal. If El Bulli only offers the sort of intense concentration described by Liziee, then my guess is that its long term influence will be greater in his disciples, or in other practitioners of molecular gastronomy whose larger objective is the greatest enjoyment for their patrons. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  6. With this, Steve comes closest to my own point of view, and expresses it in one of the most succinct, cogent pieces of food criticism ever.
  7. Bux, would you mind expanding on your thoughts along these lines? I don't quite see what you're getting at.
  8. The Fifth Floor now features Laurent Gras, the outstanding, formerly overlooked chef at Peacock Alley in New York. Mazal and I will be checking in with him in a few weeks.
  9. JD(London), you don't bake your own pain au levain? Say it isn't so!
  10. God is dead, art is dead, American foreign policy is dead... Is what you all have been talking about the end of gastronomy, or have Adria and his school, like Charlie Parker, gone inside the music and turned it inside out? Through the culinary looking glass, so to speak. Another question: the fine arts, as Marcus has pointed out about classical music, and as is true about painting as well, went through their modernist contortions a hundred years ago and more. Why has modernism, as FG calls it, come so late to the intellect of cuisine and the craft of cooking? One of you should write a think piece called "The End of Cuisine", preferably in French. It could become a landmark essay.
  11. I can't agree, oraklet. There's no excuse for abdicating the achievement of good taste in any wheat product. It can be done without sacrificing any other characteristic. Semolina flour comes in degrees of fineness. The finer the better for pasta; less so for use in bread recipes.
  12. I think it's less about the recipe for the dough than it is about the technique. Success depends more on a fairly slack dough made with weak flour being allowed to develop in a cool temperature, turned at least a couple of times, and rested adequately before forming. A rolling pin works fine, but stretching the dough by hand gives the surface a different character, with more texture (stretched rather than pressed), and so it will bake differently and taste different. Stretching by hand also offers the pleasure of handling the dough and the reward of doing something that is tied to tradition and culture. The guy in the tape may not have been a ballerina, but he had the connection.
  13. I'd also be interested in seeing it. Thanks.
  14. I share your opinion, as do most devoted sourdough bakers. A kitchen in which sourdough has been prepared for a long time will be teeming with wild yeast, so a starter begun with just flour and water in such a kitchen should get itself up just fine.
  15. There is considerable debate on this point. Some say that a starter that is fed before it acidifies to a certain ph level, and is fed regularly and maintained at a cool temperature, will maintain its original characteristics. Others believe as Kyle does. My guess is that very few home bakers, including me, have the discipline or schedule to allow a rigorous maintainance of a starter and hence to retain its orginal qualities. Also, starters made with grapes, or anything else would have to be fed the same yeasts and lactobaccilli in order to remain original.
  16. In Genoa they will tell you that only the basil leaves coated with the salt from the sea air will do. Maybe the pesto is better in Easthampton.
  17. It's useful to consult a definitive recipe occasionally, FG. Helps avoiding needless mistakes. While mortar and pestle is always best, Marcella's blender version, with cheese and butter added later, is excellent.
  18. Thanks for mentioning greenmarkets, Charles. There's a stand called, I think, the Rock Hill Bakehouse, or something like that, at the Union Square greenmarket. Very good bread, especially their levain. Not as good: Bread Alone.
  19. Bread made with commercial yeast is considerably easier to produce than pure sourdough bread. Still, there is sufficient variability in the basic ingredients, flour, water and salt, as to offer substantial opportunity for excellence as well as mediocrity. The FG is accurate in saying that novelty breads and additives are just a distraction from a fair evaluation of a baker's basic loaf. However, it's also true that great bread can support the addition of novelties without losing its exceptional character. Silverton makes this point repeatedly in her recipes for sourdough breads with additions. Among the basic loaves that will reveal a baker's skill are: boule (round, with height), pain de campagne (aka many other things, like pane pugliese or pane di como, but basically meaning a largish round loaf with a high percentage of water, and therefore relatively flat, with larger holes), pain au levain, baguette, loaves with some percentage of other flours, usually whole wheat, rolls (for restaurants; Tom Cat had a very good one in the 80's), and rye, although rye is really another world. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive. A good loaf will have a nice cell structure, a crackly crust and a beautiful color. If it is sourdough, the crumb will have a translucency and will be springy. There can be as many as three colors of brown to the crust of a good loaf. Darkest brown-to-black where the slash has been made; a variable reddish brown to the body of the loaf; and a lighter brown to the area exposed by the slash (the "grigne"). Books have been written on all of this. But in the end, it comes down to this: Does it look good? Does it smell good? Does it taste good? Re Hoboken: there are bakeries in NJ and in Queens that produce very good coal oven yeasted bread. Seen mostly in middle market Italian restaurants. Best bread in New York right now (besides mine): Balthazar, Sullivan Street, Pain Quotidien (still made here even if it is a chain - a link with "what do chefs do?")
  20. Simon, I like your style, but I can't identify with your position. Since there is in fact some very good bread available in New York and elsewhere in the US, in particular in California, all I can imagine is that the bread in London must be good beyond my wildest dreams. Can you tell us in some detail about both the inferiority of bread in New York, and the superiority of what's available in London? Maybe at some point we can engage in some reciprocal tasting via overnight boxes. ps: The bread at Gramercy Tavern is, unfortunately, lousy.
  21. Rosie, we had good smoked whitefish pate at Windows, fine-textured, smooth, creamy. We also had a whitefish "dip" at the pierogies place, which was a rougher concoction: chunks of fish interwoven with gobs of sour cream or cream cheese or whatever it was they used to ball up the fish. It was quite delicious - a guilty pleasure, almost - especially so in the context of the place, a rural roadside restaurant (and art gallery, but that's another story.) There were at least several smokehouses going in Leland, with a like number of shops selling the stuff in every imaginable form. The several options we tried were delicious. There was also whitefish jerky among the many homemade varieties in a deli (which called itself a "party store") in Elk Rapids. $17.99 per pound and worth it.
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