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Robert Schonfeld

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Posts posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. Has no one mentioned chicken fried steak?

    As a Recovering Fat Person (was 250, now 185), and as one in the iron grip of a health-nut wife, my days of eating bad stuff are largely over. In my previous life, I confess to having eaten almost everything already mentioned, sometimes on the same day.

    In my present life, I am allowed pizza from time to time. I got away with mac and cheese when I proposed the concept as an original Italian dish of baked pasta. This worked maybe twice before the dish was banned. I'm allowed lasagna because I make it by hand from scratch and it's so much effort that I only do it once every other year or so. Good chocolate is allowed, but only if we get it as a house gift, and since my wife discourages housegifts, we rarely get any.

    Pastrami maybe once every other year. Steak once a year. A real Italian hero when my wife is out of town.

    My one surviving vice: M&M's. I am gifted a one pound package on my birthday, which is gone the next day.

  2. Cabrales, How unfortunate for you and your group. Will you share details with us? I'm surprised, as my wife and I enjoyed our recent lunch very much. Of course, it's possible that our sensitivities and expectations are greatly different than yours.

  3. Blue Heron shows an unusual amount of thought and consideration. In particular, gifts from the garden are always appreciated. When we had one, we did that.

    About six time a year, my wife prepares an elaborate meal for ten or more in our small New York City apartment, generally in connection with a holiday. It's always a monumental, weeklong effort. Since we don't know Blue Heron, gifts are usually the obligatory chocolates or a pro forma bottle of wine. Thus, she has taken to asking that nothing be brought and she really means it. Many guests insist on ignoring her entreaty, hence our freezer is full of lousy chocolate and our closet stuffed with indifferent wine.

  4. Correction to my earlier post:

    Julia Child's co-authors for Vol 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking were Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck; for Vol II, her co-author was just Simone Beck.

    The titles of Marcell Hazan's two volume set are:

    The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian Cooking

    The co-author of The Bread Builders with Dan Wing is Alan Scott

    I think Pepin is the best teacher of technique for home cooks, both in his books and on television.

    The Italian classic, The Art of Eating Well (1891), by Pellegrino Artusi, has been translated into English by Kyle Phillips.

  5. I learned to cook from the two volume Child & Lucas Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the two volume Hazan Classic Italian Cuisine. My favorite bread book is The Bread Builders by Dan Wing. I also like Bugialli's books.

  6. Yes, Priscilla, I love risi/bisi. Marcella Hazan points out that it should have a slightly soupy consistency, as distinct from risotto.

    Re sugar snaps: raw, definitely. If cooked, just a dunk in boiling water and then shock 'em. I agree, they're no fun if you cook them too long.

  7. Will be trying this pasta dish as soon as I see English peas in the market (tomorrow, maybe?):

    Cook enough peas so that some can be pureed as part of a dressing, and some can be reserved to mix in whole.

    Puree some of the peas with some good olive oil, some mint and a little garlic if you like. Add all to a pan.

    Cook the pasta - orechiette would be good - drain it and add it to the pan. Mix in the whole peas. Drizzle with a little more best-quality olive oil.

    Note: sugar snaps can be added for variety; the pea pods can also be cooked and run through a food mill for more puree - it's a shame to waste them.

    Faith Willinger does a similar thing with asparagus and lemon zest that is excellent.

  8. Hmmm, I thought the bread was pretty fine indeed.

    In a real sense, Beachfan, all that matters is that you enjoyed it, but Bouley's bread has never been in the first rank; strange, I grant you for a restaurant that carried "Bakery" in its name for some time.

    This is my own special obsession. I'm afraid my standards are pretty strict.

    What in particular did you like about it, and where else in New York have you enjoyed the bread?

  9. Jinmyo, the chicken is listed on the menu as: "Pennsylvania All Natural Chicken with Turnip-Date Puree, Spring Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts".

    The Keystone State provenance of the bird added nothing to my visualization of the dish, nor did it help my appreciation of it once it was set on the table. I find this sort of description odd, something someone with the title Menu Editor could help with.

    The chicken consisted of four or five slices, each about 3/8 inch thick, of breast meat. The interior muscle had been removed.

    The turnips and dates were a logical match. The puree tasted of both the squash and the fruit. Together, they were an enrichment to the chicken, which itself had been nudged off its usual neutral position as a background for just about anything by the buttermilk treatment, which resulted in meat with a noticeably smoother texture, as well as the characteristic slightly sweet/tart taste of the (presumably somewhat reduced) liquid. I bake bread with buttermilk from time to time, and it does the same thing. It's subtle, but it makes a difference.

    My wife had eaten all the vegetables before we switched plates, so I can't add any more there. A large pastrybagged apostrophe of whipped potatoes completed the plate.

    I forgot to add in my initial post that the bread at Bouley is, regretably, not of the best quality. This is because they insist on baking it themselves, and on using commercial yeast instead of sourdough, or even a biga. They offer a variety of novelties, such as pistachio, garlic, apple, but they are no substitute for plain, high quality bread.

  10. In the first of several planned forays marking our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I went down to Bouley for lunch yesterday.

    As others have done so well describing in detail the exceptional quality and value of the tasting menu at lunch, I will spare readers (and especially myself) a recapitulation.

    I do, however, have a couple of observations.

    The apples are a brilliant piece of modern, multisensory design. On entering the vestibule, one is first aware of the sweet smell of the apples, and then, with a glance to the left, sees the racks holding them. To me this is analogous to a successful culinary conception wherein the senses are engaged serially, and then together. And it all happens before one enters the restaurant. For me, the most delightful arrival experience at a restaurant in a very long time.

    We were seated in the original room, at a table for four, by the windows. The room was about 3/4 full at 1:00 pm. I bitched briefly about the way the paintings were framed, hung and lit, but my wife kicked me in the leg and that was that. Otherwise, the room was perfectly pleasant.

    When I made the reservation, I told the person on the phone what the occasion was. Every person addressing us in the restaurant for the first time wished us a happy anniversary (except maybe the bread guy.) A complimetary glass of champagne appeared immediately.

    The food was nearly perfect, and I say nearly because there must have been something to pick on, but I can't think what it was. There were no eccentric leaps of imagination, no discomfiting inventions. Between us, we ate everything on the menu. It is worth commenting that the fish was cooked to perfection, including some items for which it is difficult to do so, such as skate, and squid. A chicken poached in buttermilk was worth eating chicken in a restaurant for. Desserts were nice, if not of the quality of the savory foods. A rice pudding topped with "ten-fruit sorbet" (why would anyone do that, except to use up fruit?) had "Happy Anniversary" in beautiful chocolate script along the rim of the plate.

    We allowed the sommelier to serve us each a half glass of wine with each course. In the context of my wine knowledge, I can say that they all tasted good with the food. We did keep notes, just for the record.

    We were literally escorted from our table to the door, where several people of indeterminate function were present to wish us a good day.

    $135. with all the wine and a very generous tip. To me, an insanely good bargain.

  11. Steve, Your observation about newness may or may not be accurate as concerns the Spaniards vs the Italians. It's neither my area of expertise, nor interest, although I would dearly love to do some extended eating in Spain. Besides, I'm just a surrogate, a fan for a culture that scarcely feels the need to explain itself. If you made your comment to a Roman, he  would shrug his shoulders, turn his palms upward, push out his lower lip, raise his eyebrows, and head for lunch, stopping on his way to admire the Colliseum.

  12. But in general, I find that Italian cucina has less flavor than the best French cuisine.That is especially true in this country where the Italian food doesn't really taste Italian. It tastes lilke American food prepared in an Italian style...

    Of course in Italy this is completely different

    I'm only a very minor member of a very substantial community that would just smile and walk away from someone making a statement like your first sentence quoted above (in Sicily, they might first insert a long, thin knife between your ribs), so I'm relieved to find it to be ultimately directed at Italian-American food, where there is little, if any, disagreement, and away from Italian food in Italy by the last sentence quoted. I think we touched on this difference briefly in another thread.

    I love French food and I understand the Francophile, and you are lucky to have more better blues playing for you in the US, and especially in New York City than we Italophiles have. Still, I was baptised, foodwise, an Italian. What surprises me so often, present conversation excepted, is how little is known or understood about Italian food on the part of people who are otherwise knowledgeable and/or sophisticated about cooking and eating.

  13. standard Tuscan fare, a cuisine I have a love hate relationship with

    Tell us about this, if you would, Steve.

    I first went to Da Silvano so long ago that some folks at another table lit up a joint and no one even looked their way. The food has never been compelling, but as you say, the location is.

  14. To Liza's very good reference, I would add Marcella Hazan's. She gives clear directions for forming correct gnocchi - with an indent on one side, and tine marks on the other. This is functional in trapping the sauce, as well as traditional and attractive.

    The potatoes have to be as dry as possible. I think it was chef Collichio who suggested baking them on a goodly layer of salt. In any event, baking is much better than boiling, and, obviously, potatoes with as little moisture content to begin with as possible.

  15. Did you consider asking for some of either? (oil or butter)

    Fair question. No. It would have been nice, but I'm happy tasting the bread all by itself, and even better, as a sop for the various sauces.

  16. Glutton that I am for restaurant episodes rife with the potential for disappontment, I nevertheless took my optimism, my craving for Italian food, and my wife to lunch yesterday at the city's newest three star establishment. I can say off the top that Fiamma seems to be, after one visit, one of very few Italian restaurants where one can go for a casual meal of high quality without any of the attendant nonsense of a scene, and without suffering the whims and judgement of staff to whom, outside their establishment, you would give no attention at all. (Does Babbo come to anyone's mind?)

    I don't like the star system; I don't understand it very well (whether that's my fault or its creators). Still, enthusiasm at such a level for an Italian place was irresistible, and off we went.

    The greeting was warm and earnest. At 1:00 PM, the attractive Italian-style dining room was about two-thirds full. We were shown to a table for four with a fine view of the entire room.

    We ordered wine first, so as to be sure we had some when our first course arrived. After generous tastings of a couple of things, we asked for a glass of Vermentino Argiolas "Costamolino" '01, from Sardinia. Dry, with enough fruit and flower in the finish. Easy, pleasnt and tasty drinking. A verdicchio was just too bland, as they usually are. I'm always looking for a good one.

    Bread, from Sullivan Street - whole wheat and sourdough white were the somewhat loose descriptions - was good, as were parmigiano crisps, made in the kitchen. A timbale of some kind of eggplant something was also good I guess, but I'm not a fan of eggplant anything that has a soft texture. Some good butter or oil would have been nice.

    Firsts were the recommended scallop dish and the octopus. The scallops were very good quality, well-seared, and nicely dressed, served with micro greens. The octopus was much more interesting, including fried chunks of baby artichoke, tiny mushrooms identified by the server as chanterelles, and a mint in oil dressing. Many interesting flavors and textures successfully combined. Both dishes were properly dressed. I hate it when the dressing makes it impossible to concentrate on what's in the salad, or worse, makes it inedible.

    Pastas as main courses were the raviolini with veal shank and stracci (rags) with rabbit. The latter, not appearing on the lunch menu, was willingly prepared for us by the chef. Both were good, as good as one can expect pasta to be in a restaurant, which is to say, from time to time, including this time, very good indeed. If I'm being picky, the raviolini seemed just a little tired, but the sauce had a noticeable roasted garlic undertone that was pleasant and stood up nicely to the rich pasta. Also just a little picky, the stracci were somewhat past al dente.  Still, a most enjoyable dish. We had no trouble wiping our plates clean and washing it all down with a Barbera D'Alba Batasiolo "Souvrana" '98, which we chose over a Dolcetto that was too hard and shallow. (I make up my own wine vocabulary as I go along, because I don't know much about wine except what tastes good.) For some reason, the pastas took a few minutes longer than we might have expected to come out of the kitchen, and I'm just guessing that the raviolini may have sat for those few minutes while the stracci were being prepared.

    Desserts, by Elizabeth Gatz, late of Daniel, were more New York than Italy, but quite accomplished. Little chocolate puff balls that looked to me like small profiteroles, but which were called, I think, crochette, were served with four dipping sauces, proggressing from tart raspberry, to lemon curd, to a light something, maybe coffee, I don't remember, to deep chocolate. This was delicious and fun to eat. I didn't taste my wife's chocolate creation, but it sure looked good on the plate.

    The service was casual, friendly and capable, in keeping with the character and tone of the place. I heard plenty of Italian being spoken. And, in an only-an-Italian would-do-that moment, a waiter, passing our table, winked at my wife.

    The chef was at the door to say goodbye.

    The menu at Fiamma is well edited. At lunch, a few appetizers, a few pastas, a chicken and a fish. At dinner, an expanded version, but still nothing overdone in terms of choices. Check it out for yourselves. The lunch I described, with four glasses of wine, was about $135. We had a good time; we'll be going back, and i don't remember the last time I said that about an Italian restaurant in New York.

  17. My wife has used cherries in a middle eastern fruit soup, and I've used dried Michigan cherries in a chocloate/cherry sourdough bread (the latter a novelty item, but everybody loves it).

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