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Robert Schonfeld

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Everything posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. Steve, pasta cooked to mush, and brown shoes with a tuxedo are wrong in my book, as is well done steak. Most people know these things are declasse. But it's a free country. We can inform, but we can't insist.
  2. Forget the opera. I'm asking about rules as they relate to Plotnickiism's thesis that diners should be taught certain things about food. Where do you stand on this, FG? Is it ok to have the steak well done (freedom of choice) or not?
  3. In relation to Steve's point that diners should be taught that rare steak is better than well done steak, what are the rules? I don't like rules. I do like customs and traditions, though.
  4. hollywood, were these by any chance filled with seasoned ground meat, lamb, perhaps? the empanada/sambusek is probably a much better cross-cultural example than steak. I suppose the debate there would be over fillings and seasonings.
  5. I have done this any number of times with success, most notably at Nobu, where omakase is part of what they do. But even when putting yourself in the chef's hands, it is fair, I think, to tell the chef that I don't want any baba ganouj, or, in the case of Nobu, red fish eggs, because they disagree with me (aqdmittedly a separate issue). The experience of a high end meal is different than the very much broader idea of teaching everyone that rare steak is better. It is reasonable to accept the chef's intentions, reserving, however, the right to avoid foods one dislikes. I have an image of a restaurant with a sign in its window: "If you don't like baba ganouj, don't even come in here."
  6. I don't like baba ganouj. I've tried it, I don't like it. I am capable of understanding in the abstract why it is good, I just don't like it. As JD(London) points out, food is a survival item first. There is also a whole lot of choice. So it seems to me that there needs to be a willingness to try something different. It can be taught that rare is better than well done. It has been taught. Most people know it. But some just don't give a damn. The statistical universe for food is everybody. That's a lot of people. We have to fairly assume that some who profess a preference for well done steak will try rare and eventually like it. Some won't. Some will never try. So it goes.
  7. Sorry. I posted to this topic before reading Steve's stipulation to semantics and Wilfrid's to quibble. Forget it.
  8. So this is where the discussion has gone. Can't keep up with all this. I think it's true that it can be taught that a musical performance will be better if performed a certain way, or a kind of painting will be better if made or seen a certain way, and that a steak tastes better if eaten a certain way. But in each case, the consumer who resists just doesn't care or doesn't want to work hard enough to learn that particular thing. Exceptions are people who do something a certain way because they believe they have to do it that way such as those eating according to Kashruth. They aren't going to change even if they accept that the meat will taste better rare. My question is a different one: why do we care? One can impart what one knows to another about a particular Callas performance, or a rare perterhouse at Peter Luger, but, once done, what more is there to do? *You* know Callas will sing it better. *You* know that the steak tastes better rare. You've done your job. What else are we expecting, or hoping for? And here's another question: if everyone accepted Callas and rare steak to the exclusion of alternatives, what would it mean for those who like Sutherland and medium beef? Would you say that a preference among singers is understandable, but that only rare beef is acceptable? If so, what does this tell us about "palate education" versus (just for the sake of this example), music appreciation?
  9. Obviously, it will be worthwhile to read the David book. I'm especially interested in the primary sources she cites, and others that might be consulted. Steve's post does raise another interesting question, which maybe he or someone else can answer: is David saying that the Medici in Florence used French help, including kitchen help ("her entire household was French")? If so, should we understand that it was the 16th century French who cooked for the princes of Italy, and thus formed the basis for modern Italian cooking? The great painters of northern Europe (Van Eyck, Durer, etc.) predate those of the Italian Renaissance (Leonardo, Botticelli, etc.). Yet, while influenced by the work of their colleagues in the north, the most majestic artistic accomplishments of the period were achieved in Italy. What, if anything, did Renaissance Italy contribute to the more majestic accomplishments of French cuisine in the 17th and 18th centuries? Edited to close the quote.
  10. Speaking of rich-on-rich, has no one mentioned the classic Italian treatment, served with risotto alla Milanese (a rare example of two dishes being served on the same plate in Italian cooking)? As usual, Marcella has an exemplary recipe. Interestingly, she eschews the typical garnish of gremolada (parsley, garlic, lemon zest) as unnecessary gilding. As a practical matter, I've found that it can be necessary to get the butcher to open more than one cryovac-ed package to get four large pieces. He (or she) will inevitably try to sell you consecutive pieces down the tail, meaning that someone's going to get the short end, so to speak.
  11. I am seeing more clearly now that characteristics of centralization, systematization, and scale, coincided in France at an historical moment such that their manifestations (architecture, fashion, cuisine, etc.) were perceived as stylistic imperatives throughout Europe and beyond. I'm particularly interested in the details of how this came about. I see a need for extensive primary research in many libraries. We should apply for a grant, get a university publisher, write a book. Then, we would be the emmis. (edited for anglicized Yiddish.)
  12. Found this on the About.com Italian food site while looking for some info for the gelato thread: "In The Art of Eating Well Pellegrino Artusi, the late dean of Italian gastronomes, says that the “art of chilling” was invented by the Italians, and notes that the ice creams Caterina de’Medici’s Florentine chefs served the Parisian court in the 1530s caused considerable sensation." The host of the site, Kyle Phillips, has translated Artusi.
  13. I'm not surprised that the Catherine story is discounted. It seems to me that it's likely to be less the case that the cuisine of the Medici court had a direct influence on the French court than that she brought with her certain basic recipes and techniques (such as bechamel and veloute) that formed an underlayment for what was to come in France. As to the idea of gastronomic ostentation, I wonder if earlier big time piggies, such as the English nobility, were a model. Still, the really interesting question for me remains the success of the French "distribution", as Wilfrid puts it, of culture, including food and manners. I wish Barbara Tuchman had taken up this subject.
  14. I guess it's worth repeating here that the nature of my life, personal and professional, is private. Jaybee has taken himself out of this, and in the interest of returning the site to the level of quality to which it aspires, and of which it is demonstrably capable, I am herewith doing the same by saying that there isn't anything I don't have in words from anyone that I still want. I don't mean to be intentionally vague or cute about it, but I do want to emphasize that I'm out in a way that leaves me satisfied, if not sanguine. This leaves not just Steve, but all the others who were offended by the viciousness and malice that beset a question that really overlapped our plate. (What goes on on Usenet or anywhere else is of no relevance whatsoever.) The trollish behavior that occured simultaneously didn't help, nor has Mr. Whiting's recent snipe at the affair, which someone called mischievious. I can think of other words. It also didn't help that the moderators failed to deal with the matter publicly, as democracy demands. It's my own feeling that, had they done so, it *might* have been a big help. Unanswered questions are never a big help in a free speech zone. I sincerely doubt that my fellows, with whom I proclaim immovable solidarity on the underlying issues yet again, will ever receive an apology, although each of them deserves it individually, as does the site collectively. Democracy is messy, but it's the best we've got. Please, guys, let's move on. I promise you: one night, at a dinner somewhere, there will be a round of toasts on this, and other, subjects, that will make Mel Brooks proud.
  15. These great writeups make me want to go back soon. I also prefer the sweet-with-savory in small bites. I found the Jordan almonds a bit much with the duck, especially since, as has been noted, JG is a master at balance.
  16. For journalists who may be following this thread, whether with an eye to a story or not, whether agenda-driven or not, may I direct your attention to another thread, on the subject of historical culinary migration (found here), which, in my opinion, exemplifies one aspect (there are others, to be sure) of the best of which this site is capable. Honest inquiry and earnestness in learning are pursued in a topic with far reaching implications. It is the sort of discussion that makes egullet special. It deserves as much attention as the food fights.
  17. The gorgonzola and wine at the end of a good meal; some fruit also. Then, a couple of hours later, a stroll into town for gelato. If you're in Florence, Vivoli. I trust it's still there.
  18. I agree with Marcus. With respect to any given item on a menu, I feel that I am entitled to the same level of quality in the preparation of the food as any other paying customer. For me, this is an important defining element for a restaurant. On my last visit there a couple of months ago, I thought the level of preparation was generally high. It may or may not have been the case that the conception of every dish would have pleased the most analytical of diners. By the same token, I have no objection to a regular getting extras. In fact, were I a regular, I'd expect it.
  19. Talking recipe, now: Bugialli specifically mentions garlic as belonging to Sauce Bolognese, as opposed to Ragu. He seems to be the only one mentioned so far making this distinction. Others stipulate rendering the fat of pancetta or bacon first, so as to have it available to brown the meat, rather than adding it at the same time as the meat.
  20. Thanks again. My instinct, based on no facts, is that there are elements of truth in both ideas: 500 years ago, stews became ragouts and ragus, likely cross influenced between France and Italy. With the cultural influence of the French court, fashion for the French language and nomenclature probably held sway. Then, in the 19th century, the Academy's view of farm origins may have offered its contribution to the mix. In any event, the end result is in my freezer right now and I'm getting hungry thinking about it.
  21. Very interesting. Thanks. Is it hoping for too much that Ms. Kasper's ideas are footnoted? Do I understand correctly that similar stews to those being made in Italy during the 15th & 16th century were also being made in France at the same time, and that these were called ragouts in France at that time? Or is she saying that the fashion to call them ragus in Italy came in the 18th century, at which time they were being called ragouts in France? I wonder what the Italians were calling the stews before the use of the word ragu? I guess I should buy the book. Better idea: go to Bologna. Talk to lots of cooks. Eat lots of ragu.
  22. Marcella Hazan has one classic ragu, which I've used successfully for years. I've found an important aspect of making this sauce to be a very gentle treatment of the ground meat(s). Also, the longer you cook it at a very low simmer, the better it will be. I use it both on its own, and as a point of departure for more adventurous recipes. Bugialli draws fine distinctions between Bolognese sauce and ragu, and then between types of ragu, saying one of the latter uses milk or cream and omits wine. Hazan uses both milk and wine, emphasizing that the meat must be cooked in the milk before the tomatoes are added. She calls her recipe Ragu, which she translates as Meat Sauce, Bolognese Style. Ada Boni uses exactly the same title, but instructs adding the milk or cream later in the cooking. She also includes bacon and sausage, and even suggests the possibility of adding mushrooms. If anyone can offer more primary sources, this would make an interesting inquiry. Specifically, I am wondering to what degree the cooks of Bologna make the same distinctions as Bugialli, and whether they allow for the variations mentioned here and elsewhere. Any experts out there?
  23. Fresh cranberry beans from the greenmarket, boiled with garlic, sage, bay leaf, drizzled with evoo. Baked halved Cornish hens; deglazed the pan with white wine, spritz of lemon juice. Shredded cabbage salad, lemon juice and olive oil.
  24. Priscilla, If I'm feeling ultra-ambitious (very rare), I make orechiette for the peas-ricotta-bacon dish; otherwise, I look for small shells.
  25. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that "vs" invites comparison as well as competition. It isn't always the "rumble in the jungle", to cite one historic example of competition.
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