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Robert Schonfeld

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Posts posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. This is hard. It's important to note that I've had more great food in Italy in private homes than in restaurants. I reserve the right to change my mind any time I feel like it. This may result in additions; rarely, if ever, subtractions. In no particular order:

    -coniglio, roasted or stewed, especially at Da Bona, Casoli di Camaiore

    -grilled fish, Alla Furatola, Venice

    -fritto misto, Da Fiore, Venice

    -spaghetti alle vongole on the beach, Forte dei Marmi

    -filled foccaccia & pizza, Pietro, Forte dei Marmi

    -truffle pie, Dodici Apostoli, Verona

    -entire meal at San Domenico, Imola, 1984*

    -entire meal at La Chiusa, Montefollonico, 1984 (we begged for mercy at about course 24, not including desserts)*

    *I'd have to dig out the notes on these last two.

    Oh, yeah, and fresh fruit marinated in artisanal grappa.

    This is silly. That's just the very tip of the memory iceberg.

  2. All bread goes through its last rise in shaped form, Craig. Then it's loaded. Here at home, I put usually put mine in at 500 degrees for the first ten minutes during the steam phase, then turn it down to 450 for the rest of the bake. The inital higher temperature is meant to enable the "oven spring" effect, so your loaf gets a jump start.

    In a commercial deck oven, or in a wood or coal oven too for that matter, I imagine the loaves are moved around to make use of different temperature "spots". I don't have any commercial experience, but I'll try to remember to ask next time I visit a bakery.

  3. Assuming this recipe is followed and good quality ingredients are used, how can quality decline.  Are the bakers using crummy flour, rushing the rises, or doing a lousy job of kneading?

    Door number two, jaybee. Rushing the development of the dough, especially where commercial yeast is involved, will result in that soft, collapsible crumb that has been the undoing of the classic French baguette. The traditional French promise of "pain frais toutes les quatre heures" has been upheld with a similarly collapsed production process in order to cut shifts and hence labor costs. As you point out, production costs can't really be cut because the government regulates ingredient specs.

    It's a hurryup world, and that's the enemy of good bread dough.

    Btw, you may have noticed that the Pioilane loaf at the event yesterday had that beautiful, springy, translucent crumb that is the opposite of what we're talking about here. It is a product of time. And natural starter.

  4. I made all kinds of open-faced grilled cheese things this morning with leftover bread of various kinds.  We went to Fairway on the way home last night and bought gruyere, mozzarella, bleu cheese, ham, tomatoes, basil, etc, etc.  We made lots of combinations - some with butter, some with olive oil, some with garlic, and with many combinations of the stuff we bought...delicious.  Thanks to everyone!

    We had Nina's babka with coffee this morning. Yum!

  5. The most gracious and charming CathyL hosted a gregarious group of bakers for an afternoon of cameraderie and carbohydrates. Sausages, butters, rillettes and chutney, as well as a fine epoisses were all available to accompany an impressive display of baking talent. I hope the pictures will show the diversity of yeasty goodies, both savory and sweet. Outstanding among the items brought by non-bakers was a truly extraordinary mushroom dish from Ed Schoenfeld. The beautiful breads were too numerous to mention, but perhaps most beautiful was steafnyb's magnificent challah, triple braided and shined with wash. All I could think was, "French toast tomorrow..."

    Mazal and I greatly enjoyed meeting so many lovely people, bread lovers and egulleteers all.

  6. I don't actually think that Steve was saying that I'm wrong for disliking blue cheese. I think he was saying I'd be wrong if I said that blue cheese is "bad," and that's a different point entirely.

    It's worse than that, Janet, he actually says both. If you can hit a moving target, you're a better shot than I am.

    (Damn, I looked.)

  7. That naked peach you like better then Peach Melba

    For the record, I don't like naked peaches better than peach melba. I like naked peaches. I like peach melba. I wouldn't say you were wrong for disliking either one. My head hurts. With any luck I'll be able to keep myself from clicking on this thread any more.

  8. Complexity in the food and wine industry always means better except for the rarest exceptions.

    No way. Maybe in the wine industry, about which I know nothing, but to say that complexity is always used to mean better, or to say that complex is always better than simple with respect to food is just plain ridiculous.

    Jonathan's extraction of the doctrine of reasonability is intended, I believe, to provide some context for the use of certain terms, rather than the unproductive atmosphere of absolutism that is more prevalent here.

    "jaz is wrong to dislike blue cheese" is nonsense. It doesn't mean anything. Say all you want about who likes it and why, but to attribute wrongness to her for disliking it is unreasonable. It doesn't follow that because lots of people who know all about cheese and eat it all the time like blue cheese, then someone who doesn't like it is wrong. I'm sure the logicians here can lay this out in clearer terms.

  9. Steve,

    I think you don’t understand Italian culture.

    This would be an accurate, if massive, understatement.

    For anyone who's interested, a most wonderful volume on the Italian people is The Italians by Luigi Barzini.

  10. Thus, well done meat has less serum within it but much more denatured serum on its surface and as we know, protein denatured by heat is what differentiates the flavour of cooked steak from raw; quod erat demonstrandum

    If there is no refutation from one or more of the members who knows absolutely everything, then lml's argument and its implications must be taken seriously and into account in this discussion.

  11. I am using "better" in the sense of Steve Plotnicki's latest post, "reasonableness" rather than "objectivity".

    Congratulations to Jonathan for surgically extracting a useful idea from the inflated verbiage of this thread. Persistence has its rewards.

  12. But, peach pie is less simple than a plain peach.

    Of course it is. I'm afraid the plain peach is a bit of a red herring, to mix a metaphor. The paradigm is simple food (not to the exclusion of more complicated food).

  13. But you could live in a place with great food and things actually work. It's called France  :wink:.

    I think one of the most interesting things about Italy is when you are leaving it by car and you cross the border into France or Switzerland. It's like you have travelled through a time warp. And I'm trying to say that in a way where I am not making value judgements about it. But the difference in efficiency and personal comfort is in plain view and it is striking. I understand that there is a charm to it. And I can find it charming as well when I am in the countryside or along the coast in a resort town or fishing village. But Milano should be a modern and efficient city where the buildings are clean/repaired and things work properly. That's the whole point of a city.

    Do they have any good Italian restaurants there?

    Leaving aside his penchant for the pointless prod, as well as a somewhat disturbing lack of interest in anything other than Life According to Steve, I must say that one result of these recent threads has been that I understand his point of view much more clearly. I think it was the comments about Venice that brought this into focus for me. I appreciate too that his point of view represents a great many people. You should all live a long time in good health.

  14. It's already been decided that fresh fruit is generally inadequate to be served as a dessert in a nice restaurant.

    No, it hasn't. I have eaten fruit and cheese at the end of a meal in dozens of nice restaurants. Yes, in Italy.

    Tell you what, though: I agree that it would be inappropriate to be served or to eat fresh fruit after a French haute cuisine meal. However, I believe that it is considered appropriate to do so after a fine Japanese meal.

    By the way, we're all clear that the perfect peach is just a metaphor for the simplicity/good box on the matrix, aren't we?

  15. I was under the impression they had good bread there.

    Why?

    Although there is a great variety of bread baked all over Italy, everyday bread in Italy is generally lousy. Tuscan bread in particular, with which I am most familiar, is especially lousy because it often eliminates salt altogether. While this makes a fine neutral background for tasting oil, and for scooping and soaking up juices and sauces, and for use in soups and salads, the bread itself is not very good. Many attribute the witholding of salt to the Tuscans' frugal nature, a trait less generously characterized by others. The Tuscan version of focaccia, schiacciata, can be very good, especially with a topping or a filling. And let's not forget a great Italian contribution to bread baking, grissini.

    In my experience, Italian breads get better as more biga is used. This is also true for French breads using more natural starter and less commercial yeast. Examples of pane di Como using commercial yeast and biga make an interesting comparison in this respect.

    Sweet breads and holiday breads, such as panettone, easter bread, and pandoro, among many others, are delicious. But even these at their richest still evince qualities of restraint and simplicity that run through all of Italian cuisine.

  16. If what Steve is saying is that a perfect peach prepared deliciously will be even better than that perfect peach eaten out of hand, then of course he's right; otherwise, we'd never cook beyond the most basic level.

    Not really, Toby. Sometimes we'd eat the perfect peach out of hand, and sometimes we'd cook beyond - sometimes way beyond - the most basic level. The two aren't mutually exclusive. "Better" is just the wrong frame of reference.

  17. Capisco?

    Oh, yes, Steve, I understand, and I apologize for having mistaken your words as representing an advancement in your thinking. It's clear that you are as intractable as ever, in which case I return to my position of enjoying your reports very much, and ignoring your views on comparative culture.

    g. johnson: I wonder whether Mill's view of the utility of French versus, oh, say, Italian, cusine would have depended on a preference for one over the other based on a qualitative perception. However, since, as you say, he placed little value in the pleasure of eating anything, I guess the question is moot.

  18. I'm reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon (I may have mentioned this one before): A man is saying his prayers before bed. He says, "Lord, I don't ask for much, but what I get should be of good quality."

    Without lapsing into analogies, many of the problems arise when the standards for one genre are applied to another, or when one genre is deemed to be "better" than another. I'm pleased to see Steve's remark about disappointment in a given cuisine framed as so being "to the people who are looking for...[other] aspects" of dining. In the stubborn atmosphere around here, this represents real progress. The apples and oranges may yet peacefully cooexist on egullet!

    In addition, I think it's often necessary to relax one's standards in the interest of having a good time. If the service isn't exactly sharp, or a dish isn't precisely as it should be, focus rather on the greater prize: a good time in good company in pleasant surroundings.

    I'm frequently crticized - mostly in good humor - for being too rigid about my standards, and for setting the bar too high, so I speak from experience. Make the best of things. Most of the time, that is.

  19. Patient: "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

    Doctor: "Don't do that."

    Steve, one wonders why someone with your highly developed skill for culinary analysis would continue to abuse himself with what he knows to be certain disappointment?

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