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Everything posted by tupac17616

  1. In his book he says he calls it a ballotine since he's rolling together the two breasts. They're cooked sous vide, brushed with spiced juices, and then rolled around in the crumbs. Nice. Putting an end to the speculation with some facts. Thanks!
  2. Thanks, Doc. I wonder if we are somehow related. I don't, but my guess is... He called the liberty to call it a ballotine because it was boned, poached, and served in cylindrical pieces. Of course, I'm not sure it was poached, but look at the fried bread crumbs it was apparently rolled in after cooking, to add the crispy texture that would have been there if the skin had been left on and the bird had been roasted instead of poached. Just a thought. I certainly agree with your comments about the intricacy of the food and I'd imagine the number of covers they choose to do is carefully calculated. My friend had called well in advance of the reservation and been told no. But I think he hoped to give them the sad puppy dog look in person to garner some sympathy. I actually thought it might work, too. And your latter point is exactly mine -- it wasn't so much that she said no, but how she said it, and even more importantly how it negatively affected her attitude towards us the rest of the afternoon.
  3. Please excuse the length of this thing. It got a bit out of hand. But what is eGullet for, if not sharing our thoughts on restaurants, right? I just had many, many thoughts about The Fat Duck to share. You can read all about it below, and check out all the pictures and videos HERE. I’m pretty sure the last time I ate out of necessity was in 1985. I was six months old at the time, breast-feeding, and as yet unable to reach the refrigerator door handle. I eat for pleasure now, which is to say I eat incessantly. Hell, I’m having trouble typing this sentence because I’m eating right now. I didn’t need to go to lunch at the Fat Duck. Probably didn’t need to eat at all. Lunch and dinner the day before hadn’t exactly been carrot sticks and a protein shake. But I thought it would be a fun meal. And it was, apart from the Ice Queen hostess and the scolding from a waiter because “Chef’s” (no surname) masterpieces were melting, thawing, smoking less dramatically, or otherwise deteriorating before our eyes as we dared to snap photos of each course. But I’ll get to all that. We opted for the tasting menu (£122), which may or may not have been revised since 1985. (As you’ll recall, I was six months old at the time.) Okay, so the restaurant’s only been open since 1995, but the menu very rarely changes. Instead, chef Heston Blumenthal is a man obsessed with perfecting what’s already in his repertoire. He endlessly tweaks his recipes and refines his methods. He presents the same food in new ways, manipulating the smell in the air, the sound that hits your ears, and the story into which you’ve unknowingly been scripted. He’s probably more tuned in to your senses than you are. It was easy to play along, though. While we stared blankly at the dish of olives on the table, our waiter rolled over a cart topped with a fancy ice bucket, a pitcher, and a siphon. My, that is one elaborate way to serve sparkling water, I thought. But no, it was NITRO-GREEN TEA AND LIME MOUSSE (2001)… (Click for nitro-poaching video...) It was a short dip in a very chilly pool (minus 196 °C according to the waiter) for this airy meringue infused with green tea, lime, and a drop of vodka. I was amazed that something so cold had such aroma. Or maybe my olfactory system was just tricked by all the other sensations at work. My mouth tingled like I’d just swallowed a particularly peppy breath mint and then inhaled deeply. It was cold and sour and just slightly bitter from the final dusting of green tea powder. The ball dissolved into nothing on my tongue in moments — a lovely, if ephemeral, start to the meal. Soon came a small plate with two squares of jelly — one red, one orange. In a little game of culinary trompe-l’œil, the red jelly was made from blood orange, and the orange jelly, beetroot. Sneaky. Though a bit difficult to leverage the little squares off the plate with the supplied spoons, both were quite packed with their respective flavors. Bread arrived with its good friend, butter. What can I say? It was… geometrical. A cube of salted, and a cube of unsalted. Both were fine butters, but not special by comparison to Stephen Harris', which was still so fresh in my memory. Little black platforms were set before us, each topped with an OYSTER, PASSION FRUIT JELLY, LAVENDER. Frankly, the combination sounded revolting, but a layer of creamy horseradish hidden beneath the passion fruit jelly rescued it from cloying sweetness. The lavender was barely discernible – three miniscule buds atop the oyster, and a tiny sprig on the side. The oyster was actually shucked and cut into pieces before being returned to the shell and layered with the other ingredients, which made it remarkably easy to savor over a couple of bites instead of sending it down the hatch in one gulp like I might have otherwise. I wasn’t enamored of this dish, but I think that has more to do with my usual predilection against horseradish than anything else. The POMMERY GRAIN MUSTARD ICE CREAM, RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO packed a latent surge of heat just like the horseradish that had come before it. However, this time the kick found its counterpoint not in sweetness, but in acidity. The red cabbage gazpacho had an almost acerbic quality in the mouth, as bright on the palate as it looked on the plate. The texture of the gazpacho was much thinner and less viscous than I had expected, but in combination with the ice cream and a tiny brunoise of cucumber, it had both crunch and character when you first bit into it, and a creaminess that lingered on your tongue until you lifted the spoon to your mouth once again. The next few things came in rapid-fire succession. To be honest, I just wanted some along time with the first before the others starting arrived like unplanned children. It began with the OAK MOSS AND TRUFFLE TOAST (Homage to Alain Chapel), a bed of oak moss topped with cute little dispensers of moss-flavored breath strips. We let the film dissolve on our tongues while the waiter poured water on top of the oak moss, casting an eerie veil of moss-scented mist over our table… (Click for oak moss video...) I’m sure this imagery is intended to transport us mentally to the damp, shady base of an old oak tree. But the only thing I could think of was a holiday party I went to three years ago when a bunch of lanky physics nerds hopped up on Red Bull and gummy worms got their hands on some dry ice and decided to make it the evening’s “entertainment”, before presumably returning to their respective caves for an all-night World of Warcraft tournament. It wasn’t a pretty sight. But I digress. While our table filled with more smoke than I’d seen since that Iron & Wine concert a while back, we crunched our way through a thin piece of toast topped with chopped truffles and a few slices of radish. Apparently truffles and oak moss share certain chemical compounds, hence the pairing. He’s quite an intelligent chap, this Blumenthal character. Layered in a separate bowl, the JELLY OF QUAIL, LANGOUSTINE CREAM, PARFAIT OF FOIE GRAS also had just a few spoonfuls of pea puree underneath it all. I thought this was lovely. It was rich, creamy and salty, but somehow not too much of any one of these. It would’ve made a nice spread for toast, and was probably meant as such for the truffle toast. Pity that I had already eaten it. And an even bigger pity, apparently, that I had taken a few seconds to photograph all the components of this course as they were set down. We were essentially scolded by one of the wait staff for doing so: “It’s very important that Chef’s creations are eaten à la minute. Blah blah blah blah blah. I have basically no sense of humor and no warmth of spirit. Please don’t smile in here, sir.” Okay, so that’s not a direct quote, and he obviously didn’t say those last couple of things. But seriously — reprimanded for a few (non-flash) photos of each course?! Give me a break. And then give me SNAIL PORRIDGE with Joselito ham. Truly a marvelous dish, and a signature for which the chef is justifiably famous. It was so alluring in its simplicity. Snails and parsley have a mutual affinity, as the French have long since discovered. But the anise-y sweetness of shaved fennel and the salty, thin strips of Joselito ham here elevated the combination to a whole new level. And nutty porridge made this dish more than a good match. It was a love connection. I could’ve — and gladly would’ve — eaten forty of these. Mmm, benzaldehyde — I never can get enough of that delicious C6H5CHO. It’s a chemical compound present in almonds, several stone fruits, and the exceptional ROAST FOIE GRAS “BENZALDEHYDE” that came flanked by almond fluid gel, cherry, and chamomile. Pre-cut into three fat slices and topped with chamomile, chives, and a snowy mound of shaved almond, the foie gras was absolutely tantalizing. It had a uniformly firm-tender consistency throughout each cross-section, rendering the dangerously sharp Laguiole knives we’d been given useless. The almond fluid gel transported me back to Sicily, where I had fallen for the subtle charms of almond milk. And I haven’t even mentioned the delicious tiny cubes of amaretto jelly or the pure, intense flavor of the cherry and its puree. This dish was sublime, simply one of the best foie gras preparations I’ve ever had. The conversation of a particularly obnoxious couple nearby drifted well above the din in the room, and I glanced hopefully about for a blunt object with which to beat them. The waiter, ever so helpful, brought a large seashell — unfortunately far too beautiful to crack on those neighboring knuckleheads – with an iPod playing the “SOUND OF THE SEA”. I zoned out listening to the seagulls and the crashing waves while they set a glass-covered sandbox before us. The edible “sand” on top (a mixture of tapioca, fried breadcrumbs, crushed fried baby eels, cod liver oil and langoustine oil) captured the texture (if thankfully not the flavor) of that substance well. All along this virtual shoreline with several types of shellfish — oysters, winkles, razor clams, and mussels among them — seaweed, and a briny foam. The combination of so many different stimuli (sound, texture, aroma, taste, appearance) really brought all the senses to the seashore at once in this fun dish. Striking though it was on the plate, the SALMON POACHED IN LIQUORICE GEL with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and “Manni” olive oil was my least favorite dish of the meal. The texture of the salmon was truly remarkable — light and flaky, so intensely soft and buttery that I wondered how it stood up on the plate at all. It was enrobed in a thin layer of very subtly flavored licorice gel, a veil of darkness that created a lovely contrast with the bits of bright pink grapefruit scattered about. But it was also — to my taste at least — horribly, unforgivably under-salted. The vanilla mayonnaise — strange as it sounded — was actually quite nice, a rich, slightly sweet way to balance out the acidity and mild bitterness of the artichokes and the balsamic vinegar dotted all over the place. Sadly, even with a few errant dribbles of the peppery olive oil, I just didn’t think the separate components of this dish became a very harmonious assembly. Next was a beautiful deep-red BALLOTINE OF ANJOU PIGEON with black pudding “made to order”, pickling brine and spiced juices. I’m not sure it struck me how much I enjoyed this dish at the time, but I’ve been lamenting its absence at every meal since. The “black pudding” was a thick, smooth, creamy, and rich puree. I could spread that on toast every day and die (prematurely, of congestive heart failure) a happy man. The breast and leg meat of the pigeon was lean, tender and extremely flavorful. The foamed pickling brine and spiced juices kept the dish from skewing too much toward the rich, meaty, bloody side. And I thought the pigeon chip — made with tapioca in the same manner as shrimp chips in many Asian countries — was an exceptionally cool idea, and a well-executed one on top of it. Not even mentioning the taste (which I quite enjoyed), the HOT AND ICED TEA (2005) was just plain enjoyable to drink. I’ve had layered hot-and-cold liquids before (Johnny Iuzzini’s white and dark chocolate consommés come to mind), but always layered vertically. This tea, however, was magic. The left half of it was cold, the right was hot , and they were separated by an invisible divider. Both sides were fairly viscous, so I’m guessing the technique employed is something like what was used for the almond fluid gel earlier. But I honestly have no idea, and I’m happy in that ignorance — I loved this. We were handed some reading material on a certain Agnes B. Marshall, the so-called “Queen of Ice Cream”, inventor of the now-ubiquitous ice cream cone and, as such, worthy of sainthood. Blumenthal’s homage to her legacy was MRS. MARSHALL’S MARGARET CORNET, a Mini-Me-sized cone of apple ice cream on top, with a spicy ginger-orange granita below. Quite flavorful — if just a tad grainy — for something the size of a thimble. To prep the taste buds for the first full-sized dessert, we were given small tubes of PINE SHERBET FOUNTAIN (PRE-HIT). Blumenthal is always playing with nostalgia — a British sense of nostalgia, considering the fact that he’s British and all. Oafish American that I am, I had not a clue what a sherbet fountain was. Left without an explanation, I wondered how to use the dehydrated stick of vanilla within… Dip and lick à la Fun Dip? Bring back the 80’s, lower my head to the table and start snorting like Tony Montana? I was lost. Hesitatingly, I licked, dipped, then licked again. Pine flavored. More sour than sweet. Interesting. Now I suppose my palate was ready for the MANGO AND DOUGLAS FIR PUREE, bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet, blackcurrant and green peppercorn jelly. I suppose the pureed Christmas tree was fitting, considering the season. But the flavor of the puree was surprising subtle, more mango than, well, tree. I also thought the bavarois was borderline insipid. Don’t get me wrong, the sorbet was incredible and the presentation, stunning. But aside from that sweet-tart sorbet and the peppery little cubes of jelly, the extra-fluffy bavarois tasted like fluff. By now, it was pushing dinner time, so naturally finished up this lunch with breakfast. First up was a bowl of PARSNIP CEREAL – sweet, crunchy little flakes that were softened up ever so slightly by the addition of milk. With no added sugar, the natural sweetness of the parsnips came through. In the background, a subtle earthiness was detectable, but surprisingly, I almost forgot about the fact that we were eating a root vegetable for dessert. What is there to say that has not already been said about the NITRO-SCRAMBLED EGG AND BACON ICE CREAM (2006)? While I think about that, let’s just watch a movie… (Click for the nitro-scrambling video...) Done already? Crap. Well, let’s see. Now you’ve witnessed how that “very special egg” that already tasted of bacon — magic! — was “scrambled” in liquid nitrogen — more magic! — as we sat with confused looks on our faces. Perplexity turned to bliss when I tasted it, though. The ice cream was rich, yolky, and smoky — essentially a flash-frozen bacon-infused custard. The pain perdu served beneath it was crispy and heavily caramelized on the outside, but amazingly moist within. A little dab of tomato compote was, for me, extraneous, but sweet and tasty nonetheless. A crispy crown of bacon reinforces the breakfast sandwich visual element of this dish. And to drink? This is England, so tea, of course. In this case, jellied tea that was served in a really neat broken egg-shaped cup. Perhaps I was spoiled by the hot and cold tea we’d been served not too long before this, because I found this tea jelly a bit of an afterthought, really. Last up, a round of PETITS FOURS: mandarin aerated chocolate, a violet tartlet, and a carrot and orange lolly. The chocolates had an interesting interior that looked like a dried up brown sponge on top of a little round of mandarin jelly. Nearly weightless, I was amused by the texture more than I enjoyed the flavor. The violet tartlet I quite liked (the fat grains of vanilla salt were a particularly nice touch), but I think I was alone in that thinking among the rest of my party who found the oozy filling a little unwieldy. The carrot and orange lolly tasted more of the former than the latter, but was harmless enough. Oh, there were a few apple-flavored caramels with edible wrappers as well. Nice little selection of treats to close out the meal. I’ve tried to forget the particularly cold greeting we received on the way in to the restaurant, having asked the hostess if there was even the slightest possibility that we could squeeze another friend who’d come along for the train ride from London onto our four-top (a spacious round table, might I add). She reacted like we had simultaneously run over her puppy, cursed her ancestors, and smudged her Pumas. It was a firm “No, I can’t”, not an offer to go and check with the chef, not a “Let me see what I can do”. She might as well have added “You most certainly may not. How dare you even ask?!” because that’s basically what her body language said for the remainder of the afternoon. That initial bump in the road notwithstanding, this meal had been an incredibly fun ride and I was sad to see it end. I was also pleasantly surprised how often the words “fun” and “flavorful” had popped into my head at the same time that afternoon. The world is full of so-called “molecular gastronomy” restaurants where technology overshadows taste, and awkward, forced whimsy comes with a side of failed irony. But 99% of those restaurants aren’t backed by chefs as truly brilliant as Heston Blumenthal. His deep understanding of (food) science and (food) history is instantly noticeable. His dishes are relentlessly researched and yet playfully nostalgic. His cuisine, simply put, demands attention — eyes open, ears perked, and taste buds raring — because the entire experience at The Fat Duck, perhaps more than any other place I’ve been, hits you from so many directions and on so many levels at once.
  4. So next time I should withhold my comments about things I'm tasting for the first time? Or maybe just insert a list at the beginning, specifying the elements of the meal in which I have a certain level of expertise, so you can determine the validity of my comments? Give me a break. I didn't criticize the cooking or the product. I merely shared my experience of eating it.
  5. Certainly the daily tasting menu is of his choosing. But clearly, what my friend was asking for was a situation where Bosi had carte blanche to cook whatever he pleases (and, for that matter, charge however much he pleases), an extended, more spontaneous menu. Surely you'll admit that if you've not asked for (or simply been offered) such a menu before, or at least read about it. I don't think it's at all uncommon, at least among the crowd that reads forums like eGullet. Also, nowhere did he suggest that we deserved anything. This is the hospitality industry -- it never hurts to ask. Me too. Because he gave my friend his email personally, and specifically told him to make sure he was in the next time he came to Hibiscus. Surprisingly enough, I don't think he's lost a customer in my friend. But I'm pretty sure he has in me. As UE said before, I just found it incredibly inhospitable. Because, simply put, the chef's reaction rubbed me the wrong way. There are a thousand nicer ways he could have gotten the very same point across.
  6. Yes, I do quite enjoy hunting grouse in my free time IN BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA. I had never even seen a frickin' grouse before I went to St. John, much less eaten one. I'm not sure what you mean by the second comment, but perhaps presumptuousness takes many forms!
  7. I think my overall reaction to this meal fell somewhat closer to Food Snob's than to UE's, but my thoughts are below and, as always, the pictures are HERE... I’m a complainer. Faced with unpleasantry, I don’t grin and I certainly don’t bear it. It’s an unforgivable fault, really, and one my poor brother had to put up with for an entire month as we ate backpacked our way around Europe. One night, lunch was still sitting lazily in my stomach and I just didn’t think I was hungry for dinner. (Please stop laughing, those of you that know me…) While my gut grumbled so did I, insisting that we take it lightly at St. John if we even went at all. We had already been eating all afternoon, and we had a big lunch the following day as well. As long as we got the bone marrow, I told him, I’d be satisfied. I’m a liar. But at least I had accomplices. Two of my fearless culinary cohorts had come along as well, and we told my brother we’d be having “just a taste of a few things.” But when a sick-minded individual like one of us that, it actually means, “Hey, I know! Let’s just order every single thing on the menu that catches our attention. Right? Right!” And so we did… It’s almost pointless for me to differentiate between appetizers and main courses, savory and sweet, considering that our table was continuously full of food for the next couple of hours. But the first thing that got passed my way was Jerusalem Artichoke Soup (£6). It had an unapologetically grainy feel on the tongue, but an undeniably pure sunchoke flavor. The soup was about as complex as the menu description (which is to say not at all), and that was to become a theme throughout the night. This food here is rarely garnished and never garish. It just tastes like what it is, plain and simple. A colorful salad of Beetroot, Boiled Egg & Anchovy (£6.80) was the lone vivid spot on a table that was otherwise filled with various shades of brown. The egg had been well-prepared, lending the yolk a creamy, spreadable consistency and the white a bouncy, but not rubbery, resistance when you cut into it. The different components of this salad sang many flavor notes at once: earthy (beets), salty (anchovies, capers), and tart (the vinaigrette). And taken together on top of the country-style bread on our table, they made a fine little canapé. Food Snob also liked the bread, apparently. He ate two loaves. We had a simple dish of Brown Crab Meat On Toast (£7.80), well-made toast, might I add. Too many restaurants over-toast, under-toast, or — worse yet — sucker-toast. That is, they give you old, stale, flavorless, or otherwise crappy bread that’s ostensibly been revived by it’s time in the toaster, thus making you a sucker. Fortunately this toast was fresh, warm, and crispy around the edges, softened up only by the lightly mayonnaise-bound crab meat on top. A little squeeze of lemon served to lighten up the sweet richness. The Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad (£6.70) was a must. After all, it’s the no-nonsense dish that has become emblematic of St. John, if not chef Fergus Henderson himself. (If I had an emblem, I think it would be tres leches cake, given its inexplicable ability to soak up rich foods without collapsing.) The marrow was rich, fatty, and caramelized around the edges, but what really made this dish was the bright top note added by the parsley, caper and onion salad. I really enjoyed this, and frankly I wouldn’t have minded an encore appearance of this dish later in the meal. But there were other animals to eat, including a roasted Grouse (£27.20). The breast meat was rosy, tender, and full-flavored. Its liver was spread on a crispy round of toast, and there was a puddle of bread sauce that proved a nice creamy accompaniment for the bird. The tuft of mâche tucked into its nether regions was wonderfully fresh. So it really was quite an enjoyable dish, until I made the grave mistake of trying the meat on the underside of the bird. I shudder to think about that hideously muddy flavor and putrid stench even now. I quietly wondered if somewhere nearby there was lye for me to gargle with or boiling acid with which I might burn away the foul aroma that lingered on my fingers. Alas, I settled for a trip to the bathroom to wash my hands. Moral: when it comes to grouse, the breasts are best. ”Woo! Mashed potatoes!” was my brother’s cry when they set the Smoked Eel, Bacon & Mash (£15.70) in front of him. His next cry — the one uttered when I snatched the plate from his cold, lifeless claws before he finished all of it — is not fit to be published here. This was probably my favorite of the main courses. The smoky richness of the thick-cut bacon and the steak-sized eel fillets was tempered by the potatoes. In every bite, salty and meaty gave way to creamy and starchy. Taken individually, the bacon and eel would have likely been overwhelming and the potatoes under-seasoned, but taken together, there was a simple harmony. I didn’t much care for the Ox Tongue, Beet & Horseradish (£15.40). But maybe my taste buds just don’t like the sensation of foreign taste buds entering my mouth. If “life-like” is the texture they were aiming for with this tongue, they achieved it. It had a spongy bounce, and a thousand little bumps that together gave the illusion of smoothness. Contrary to what my companions thought, I found the flavor to be fairly muted. To me, it cried out for the horseradish, an ingredient, it just so happens, of which I am not particularly fond. Neither enjoying the texture nor the taste, I moved on to other things. My friends can tell you that I’ve got eagle-like vision at restaurants and markets. They are just my natural habitat, I suppose. (”Hey, look over there — free samples!”) No surprise, then, that I had spotted the Hare Saddle & Lentils (£17.40) on the specials board across the room before our waitress could even tell us about it, and I snagged it up posthaste. It arrived a deep, caramelized brown on the outside and blood-red on the inside. The texture was oh-so-tender. But where, oh where, was the salt? The hare was woefully under-seasoned, which was even enough to stifle my amusement at having found a bullet in my first bite of the meat. I guess when they say wild here, they mean it. Somebody ordered a Green Salad (£4.50) also, but I didn’t have much of that. I wasn’t hungry, remember? Or maybe I just didn’t care to put down the Welsh Rarebit (£5) long enough to reach for it. I think they called this “cheese toast” in my day. But then again, maybe my mother didn’t put beer in her cheese sauce. (Or did she?) I liked the extra kick of Worcestershire and the very noticeable cayenne pepper here. I’d like to state for the record that I only ordered one dessert — the Apple & Calvados Trifle (£6.80). Two of my dining companions that shall remain nameless were responsible for the other four that soon filled our table. (Mothers, do not let your children grow up to be food bloggers.) The trifle was great. Every bite had different proportions of fruit, cream, and booze. But frankly, how can you go wrong with any one of those three in a dessert? Just layer them all together and call it a day. The Pear Crumble & Custard (£6.80) was somewhat vapid. The pears were just too bland as a crumble filling, neither sweet nor tart enough. I suggested, for example, that a few pomegranate seeds scattered among the pears would have been an improvement. Anything to brighten things up. That said, the crumble topping itself and the crème anglaise were quite enjoyable, so a crumble would certainly be a dessert I’d opt for here at a different time of year. Probably my favorite of the sweet bunch was the Gingerloaf & Butterscotch Sauce (£6.80). In fact, this might have been my favorite dish of the evening. The gingerbread was spicy and warm, the butterscotch sweet and viscous, and (bonus!) the surprise scoop of cinnamon ice cream that came alongside it was remarkably creamy. The heady heat of the fresh ginger was present in every mouthful, and the cake was already so moist on its own that the butterscotch sauce and ice cream were just, as they say, gravy. A few frozen treats brought us down the home stretch. The first was Prune & Armagnac Ice Cream (£6.60), which had both the fruit and the booze in abundance. Was I drinking or eating? I don’t know, really. But I do know the fat chunks of macerated prunes were soft and chewy bumps I loved encountering as I let each creamy mouthful melt away in my mouth. The crisp, buttery langue de chat cookies on the side were quite delicious as well. If we were implicitly imbibing with the ice cream, then we stopped playing games and things turned explicit with the Apple Sorbet & Polish Vodka (£7.40). Up to this point, we’d shared all the dishes, but I’m not enough of a masochist to suggest splitting a shot four ways, so someone else got to do the honors. The sorbet was nice, though. A bright, tart note to end the meal on. Or so I thought. A woman at the adjacent table inquired as to why we were such anti-social freaks interesting people to have been taking photographs of all our food. We tried to explain, but at times, our behavior defies explanation, really. ”Oh, well we’re just here to eat,” she responded, handing me a warm Madeleine (1/2 Dozen; £3.70) with a smile. And I think that’s what this restaurant is about, really. You’re not there for boneless, skinless, gutless food or bow-tied and table-clothed service. You’re there, simply, to eat. Or, you know, just to taste a few things.
  8. Oh, how I enjoy reading all the positive reports about a restaurant whose very name being mentioned makes me angry. As great as the food probably is, I'm not sure I will ever be able to make myself go. It happened like this... I was to visit London not too long ago, and I asked a friend of mine who lives nearby (and has Claude Bosi's personal email address) to send an email to him on my behalf. I was very, very excited about this restaurant you see. The chef's got one hell of a CV. And he's either hired a very talented menu writer, or his creations really are that appealing to me. In any case, my friend sends an email that said more or less: Polite and friendly, no? Or so we thought at least. Chef Bosi must have read it and tried to forward it to his receptionist, but accidently replied to my friend instead: Lovely response, no? I certainly feel more than welcome at his restaurant now...
  9. Wow thank you so much 2Pac.. Really appreciate the effort and time you took to share that with us.. Thanks for the congratulations.. We are really excited and are so happy that we are able to share this with our guests.. We are going to make this a fantastic experience. I did not know that your blog was a A Life Worth Eating.. I have read some of your wonderful entries unknowingly. I will definitely go through it more carefully.. I must ask, if there was one place to visit or do with a group of people there, what would you suggest? Do you remember any particular areas or special places that you could imagine a ceremony.. I'm happy I could help. I'll continue to give it some thought and see if I can dig anything else up. Thanks a lot for the kind words on my blog. It feels good to know you've enjoyed it. I really need to work on updating it more often, though, because to tell you the truth, I'm a bit ashamed of how rarely I've been doing that lately! Re: one place to visit. That's tough. I'm not sure I've spent enough time there to give you an answer that's really relevant. Based on the limited number of places I've been to, though, I'd book out the entire restaurant at Combal.Zero (in Rivoli) one afternoon, have them put together one long table that ran down the length of the room (glass on both sides, really nice space) and let chef Scabin do his thing. I really enjoyed the attached contemporary art museum there, and the view is pretty remarkable as well. Re: a place where I could imagine a ceremony, unfortunately I don't think I know of one. But I'll ask a friend of mine who lives not terribly far from there. Maybe he'll know something.
  10. You've reminded me, I also had the walnut bread. Good stuff. (Still prefer Kayser's... or is it.... the same?) Will keep the other recs in mind next time.
  11. I went to the BE in the Printemps department store last month. Quite a nice foie gras and fig jam sandwich. Lovely lemon tart, with bit of lime zest on top. Pretty decent loaf of fig bread, a little too chewy though. My brother liked his pain au chocolat and the chocolat viennoise, even if he preferred other places. The crema gianduja they import from Italy rocks. I'm eating it as we speak. One of the girls who works there is stunningly beautiful.
  12. Daniel, first of all congratulations man. That's fantastic. Lunch/dinner: -- Piazza Duomo (Alba) >> One of the best young chefs in Italy right now, according to my good friend and according to everything I've read about the place over the last couple of years. Trained with Gualtiero Marchesi, Michel Bras, and Ferran Adrià. This is probably the restaurant in Italy that is highest on my list of places to try right now, actually. -- Antica Corona Reale (Cervere; about 15 miles from Alba) >> Cuisine of the territory, beautifully executed Piemonte classics. White truffles of great quality and ridiculously reasonable prices. Cannot recommend highly enough. Must, must, must order the egg/fonduta/truffle dish. -- Guido (Pollenzo; about 8 miles from Alba) >> Also classic Piemontese. I've not been, but have heard good things. Near the heart of Slow Food in Italy. -- Gener Neuv (Asti; about 18 miles from Alba, easy train ride) >> Really enjoyed this place last summer. My write-up is here. -- Others more knowledgeable than I will have a lot more to offer here, I imagine.. Drinking/snacking: -- Vincafe (Via Vittorio Emanuele 12, Alba) >> When I went last summer, we had various crostini, prosciutto, cheese, and wines. Along with the wine and the snacks, I had a proper dinner, of battuta al coltello, a phenomenal and simple dish of raw veal with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice, served atop baby arugula. Then tajarin with asparagus and some other vegetables. After dinner, we had some wonderful mojitos, with, suprisingly, chunks of fresh peach in them. Pretty darn good meal, especially the wonderful battuta. Sweets: -- Laboratorio di Resistenza Dolciaria (Via P. Ferrero 11, Alba) >> It's only perhaps a 15-minute walk from the city center, and when I arrived, it looked like nothing. A small, nondescript candy-shop perhaps. The pastries mentioned in an old NYT article seemed to be non-existent. I stepped inside though, and started chatting with the woman working the counter, and eventually, with the owner himself. Federico Molinari knows his food, and knows his wine. He told me all about why the Barolo Chinato wine he uses in his very tasty crema di cioccolato al barolo chinato tastes the way it does. How the climate of the region affects the grapes, how the production process affects the flavor, and how the wine supposedly affects digestion (historically, the wine was used to cure stomach aches, apparently). He loves Sicilian desserts, he said, and always has. So he wanted to do something with marzipan, the almond paste so commonly found on that island. Almond don't grow as well in the Piemonte, he said, but hazelnuts, of course, do. He had me sample a wonderful tart he'd made with hazelnut paste and robiola cheese that is traditionally produced all over the region. "The cheese has a natural sweetness...nice, eh?", he said to me in Italian. Nice, indeed. I bought a good-sized wedge to share with the folks at dinner that evening, and it received praise all around. Gelato: -- Gelatissimo (Piazza Navona 10b, Alba) >> Sicilian pistachio? Yes, please.
  13. Exactly, gamberorosso.it. Unfortunately, their website was "improved" a few months ago so the link I alluded to is no longer on the home page. I'm not sure whether or not you must register and log-in first (I think so). But once you've done that, in the top menu (under the big logo) click "FOOD", then below that "Ristoranti", then you can search by province, city, region, restaurant name, etc to find the Gambero Rosso recommended places in that area. Hope this helps!
  14. Ah, I was talking about the truffle dessert. It all makes sense now..
  15. I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed Antica Osteria Vico Palla, Boris. That was a place I quite liked. Thanks, also, for alluding to my old Eating the Boot thread from the summer 2007. For Abra, I've copied below the bit I wrote on Genova... Without any hesitation whatsoever, I would recommend Gelateria Profumo to anyone. And my friend tells me there is another gelateria in town that is just as good, so definitely ask him about that. He also claims Vico Palla has been or is currently going downhill. But who knows? I really liked my meal there and so, apparently, did Boris, so maybe it's still a good option to consider.
  16. Where does one get truffles -- black or white -- in August?
  17. Abra, I've got a friend who was born in Genova and has lived there for the past, oh, 60 years. Needless to say, the guy knows the food in that town very, very well. Just shoot me a PM and I could gladly get you in touch with him, if you'd like.
  18. For anyone curious to see some recent menu prices... L’AMBROISIE L’HIVER Jan 10, 2009 Aspic de foie gras de canard landais, remoulade de céleri et truffe 118€ Feuillantine de langoustines aux graines de sésame, sauce au curry 94€ Velouté de topinambours aux noix de Saint-Jacques, émulsion à la truffe 130€ Fines feuilles croustillantes aux escargots, fondue de roquette, crème a la réglisse 82€ Oeufs mollets au cresson, sabayon à la truffe 110€ Fricassée de homard sauce civet, purée Saint-Germain 142€ Dos de sole filet braisé au vermouth, salsifis glacés, caviar osciètre gold 148€ Escalopines de bar poelées, artichaut etuvé à la truffe 135€ Saint-pierre laqué aux sucs de pomme, mousseline de céleri et granny-smith 90€ Suggestion du jour selon arrivage Noix de ris de veau glacée au jus, céleri-rave confit en demi-deuil 138€ Salmis de pigeon aux épines-vinettes, chou vert braisé au vin jaune 98€ Carré d’agneau de lait de Lozére au poivre gris, salmigondis de légumes à la coriandre 92€ Volaille de Bresse rotie de truffe, charlotte parmentière (2 pers.) 260€ Feuilleté de truffe « bel humeur », salade de mache à la crème 240€ Fromage frais et affinés 35€ Tarte fine sablée au cacao amer, glace à la vanille 30€ Biscuit chaud et sorbet à la mandarine 32€ Palet lacté aux marrons glacés, sauce moka 38€ Arlettes caramélisées au fromage blanc, citron confits 30€
  19. I'm glad somebody brought up the champagne thing. I wish I'd read that before I went. I saw many tables around the room enjoying that very combination, and I was jealous!
  20. Lucky you. Rome: I enjoyed Matricianella. If you go, the fritto romano (brains, sweetbreads, a few vegetables to keep the cholesterol in check ) is wonderful. I'd save the Tuscan food for Tuscany, personally, and thus avoid Il Chianti, but that's just my personal preference. Florence: I wasn't crazy about Camillo, but I think mainly because I was expecting it to be a bit cheaper than it was. Friends that I trust swear by the place, though. Don't know much about Antellesi. Nerbone? Oh god yes. Also the tripe sandwich guys outside Cibreo Trattoria in the afternoons (Tripperia Pier Paolo e Sergio). Bakeries? - I Dolci di Patrizio Cosi, Borgo Albizi 15r, for pastries - Dolci e Dolcezze, Piazza Beccaria 8r, for beautiful tarts, cakes, etc - Forno Bruschi Ivana, Via dell Ariento 21r, for bread Venice: I can't help you out on any of the three you specifically asked about, but I can tell you that I was in Venice about 2 weeks ago and I had to quite enjoyable, and quite different, meals. The first was Trattoria Ca' d'Oro (spaghetti alla busera? yes please). And the second was, surprisingly (to me at least, because I wasn't expecting to really like the place) at the MET Restaurant in the Hotel Metropole. It's got a Michelin star, and I think chef Fasolato is doing some really delicious things right now. He's interested in Venice's history as an important port for the spice trade, and you see that in his cooking. It's pretty cool. Drop me a PM and I can send you a picture of the menu if you want.
  21. Terminally anal here. I echo MobyP - that was a great meal shared. Moby - I'm not sure how the scallops incarnated on your plate at l'Ambroisie. I had them with white truffles and broccoli (click). I'm not sure I appreciated the scallops at l'Ambroisie - I mean that quite literally. That dish (for me) was all about the truffles and, strangely, the broccoli. The scallop was really backseated. In contrast, the scallop dish at The Sportsman was all about the scallops (both of them, actually). And, though I tend to like my scallops closer to raw (like Aaron), I'd have to say I liked the scallop with seaweed butter at The Sportsman better. (And that was some mighty fine seaweed butter - I agree with Aaron that this was a MUCH more successful dish than the one at l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon). This is merely an argument of semantics, but I didn't call the scallops overcooked. Just "a bit firmer than I would have liked". I'd agree with UE that both dishes at the Sportsman were all about the scallops. (I've not been to l'Ambroisie, so can't comment on that comparison.) I also absolutely agree with Moby about the exceptionally clean flavor of the scallop. And I think his description of the texture is an apt one. This were some incredibly fresh scallops. We were in the right place at the right time. In general, I'm not even sure I prefer a purely raw spot in the middle. I just enjoy the tenderness when it dances on that cooked/raw line, just lightly opaque in the very center. Moby, the pleasure was all ours. It was actually specifically thanks to your posts over the past couple of years that I suggested we go to the Sportsman in the first place. I owe you one.
  22. Really a special place. My thoughts are below, and the pictures are HERE... The Michelin guide characterizes its two-star restaurants as “worth a detour” and three-stars as “worth a special journey.” But as the five of us tumbled out of the packed car one by one, I realized we had collectively traveled over 50 hours to get to The Sportsman. I’d say that’s a special journey. And it was absolutely worth it. The drive out to Seasalter from London takes only an hour and a half if the traffic and weather are on your side. They are not — December in England sucks. Or maybe the whole year sucks, and I’ve just not had a large enough sample set. Anyway, on this particular day it was rainy, teeth-chatteringly cold and the sky was so dark I wasn’t sure whether it was nighttime or if the Michelin gods were angry with us for making a “special journey” for a restaurant they’ve deemed worthy of just one star. But in fact, in was lunchtime, and we had arrived a good hour early. Freezing and pathetic-looking, we sheepishly knocked on the front door of this unassuming little pub in the middle of nowhere. An angel called Emma came to greet us. She led us to a table near the fireplace, poured us some tea, and we began to thaw. Conversation drifted to nothing but restaurants all sorts of interesting things for the next hour. My brother, the lone non-food-obsessed man among the five of us, was thrilled when it actually came time for us to move to another table and eat. Deep down, I think he knew the food talk would continue, poor bastard. But he quickly found consolation in a few canapés, the first of which was Pickled herring, Bramley apple jam, horseradish & soda bread. Being half Polish, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to love herring. I don’t. Horseradish, either. But the sweet apple jam and crumbly soda bread made this a happy first bite, even though it was quickly upstaged by the second: Rendered bacon fat, butter & buttermilk soda bread. Rendered bacon fat and butter… if loving that is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. More porcine snacks came our way with the Pork scratchings & grainy mustard. I love the British name for this treat, and I love any Brit kind enough to serve it to me. It’s just deep-fried pork skin, that glorious textural feat that is fatty, crispy, and gelatinous at once. When things this tasty are served family-style, I’ve found that minimizing conversation and maximizing my proximity to the plate is the best way to go. You can always make new friends later in life. Joyous pork-filled moments are fleeting. Presented as a course in and of itself (and rightfully so) was the Focaccia & buttermilk soda bread, local house-churned butter & sel gris. The focaccia was thick and fluffy, slicked with olive oil and littered with plenty of rosemary and red onion. The soda bread was sweet, crumbly, and nutty due to the abundance of oats in it. The butter was, simply put, out of this world. I may or may not have cried when we finished all the bread (and of course, all the butter with it). But Emma, saint that she is, brought more and left it there the rest of the meal. You never really know where the snacks stop and the actual courses start, but we played it safe and got started on the wine anyway. Our first bottle – Domaine Leflaive 2006 Borgogne Blanc – led us remarkably well through the first several dishes, starting with the Fried rock oyster & lardo. Now, in my heart of hearts, I know if you wrap just about anything with pork fat, deep-fry it, and stick a toothpick in it, you can call it pub food. But this town is known for fine oysters, and I’m pretty sure the lardo came from about a mile away. This is Seasalter pub food. Welcome to The Sportsman. We all agreed that the previous bite was tasty, but my brother saw the Rock oyster & homemade chorizo as more of a gastroenterological risk than an edible specimen. He choked down his raw bivalve with a grimace, while the rest of us slurped the shells clean with delight. The oyster was plump and fresh, and the coarse house-made chorizo was well-spiced on its own, but unfortunately I thought the salt and paprika in the sausage drowned out the subtle flavor of the oyster. Chicken liver pâté, button mushrooms & shaved Parmesan was a three-star dish walking around at home in its pajamas — unfussy and comfortable. At Pascal Barbot’s l’Astrance in Paris, I’ve seen liver and raw mushroom working in tandem before. I’d call that dish a masterpiece, and apparently so would Chef Stephen Harris. His nod to Barbot (not coincidentally, his favorite chef on the planet) was more mousse than pâté. Dense, rich, and creamy on the tongue, the complex sweetness of Sauternes lingered seductively after each mouthful. The mushrooms and parmesan added earthy and nutty undertones. We splashed around again in the nearby waters with a Local scallop & house-made seaweed butter. This is basically the same simple presentation I’ve had before at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, only this one was actually good. The scallop had no opacity in the center, so the texture was a bit firmer than I would have liked. But it tasted fresh and sweet, and Harris’ seaweed butter is the best I’ve had. The straightforward Scallop carpaccio & smoked brill roe might have been my favorite dish of the day. Scallop, brill roe, wood sorrel, and salt — I counted just four ingredients, and looking out the window by our table, I could see the sources of all four of them. There’s an immediacy to Chef Harris’ cuisine that is absolutely impossible not to respect. And the beautiful fresh sweetness of the scallop with the smoky roe and the lemony wood sorrel was impossible not to love. Nothing wasted – that was Stephen Harris’ goal in curing his own Seasalter hams. He was already using nearly every other part of the pigs he got from nearby Monkshill Farm, and surely there could be no higher calling for the legs that remained. So they began feeding the pigs with leftovers from the kitchen and windfall apples. After a shower of grey salt from Guerande and fourteen months to hang out, here were hams from two different breeds for us to enjoy — one with a lighter color that left an almost-floral sweetness as it dissolved on my tongue like Serrano; and the other, a dark, waxy, saltier, full-flavored ham that brought jamón Ibérico to mind. The next dish was written on the blackboard in two words – Crab risotto. But even that description seemed superfluous, as the rice was merely the vehicle of an expression of the purest, most concentrated crab flavor imaginable. (To quote, shamefully, from Disney’s Aladdin: “Phenomenal cosmic power… itty bitty living space.”) Other than the ever-so-slightly overcooked rice, this was a dish beyond reproach. It was rich, sweet, and, in my mind, truly ingredient-defining. To taste this risotto was to know exactly what crab tastes like. While we were happily guzzling a bottle of red – Chambolle Musigny, Domaine Bruno Clair “Les Veroilles” 2002 – somebody must have been fishing. An announcement had come earlier in the meal: “They’ve just caught a turbot nearby, and you’ll be eating it soon.” Wait, what?! I’ve apparently been going to the wrong restaurants all my life, because this sort of thing has never happened to me. Right then and there I began to devise a plan to somehow import this place and everyone in it back to the US with me, because it’s basically Utopia. Friends more knowledgeable on the subject than I told me turbot benefits from a few days out of the water before cooking. I replied that if they really needed some time to sort out their emotions involved with making that fish go gentle into that good night, they could certainly just pass their servings of Roast turbot with a smoked herring sauce over to me. It wasn’t the firm flesh of the gloriously fat fish fillet, the vibrant green sprout tops, or the smoky, creamy, strikingly metallic-colored Avruga caviar sauce that sparked my sudden generosity. I was just trying to be a good friend. Really. Two oyster dishes, two scallop dishes, now two lamb dishes — the first of which was Fried Monkshill Farm lamb belly & mint sauce. ”I’ll have two of everything on the menu” would apparently be a good ordering strategy here. This was just absurdly tasty. It was so simple that it wowed. Just breaded and fried lamb belly, fatty, meaty, and crispy in every bite, to be dipped into an utterly addictive sweet mint sauce that I’m pretty sure consisted of nothing more than a simple syrup packed with the fresh herb. We also had Roast Monkshill Farm lamb loin & braised shoulder, served with bread sauce, purple brussels sprouts, and lamb jus. The shoulder was like a meat layer cake — every stratum had a different consistency. The pleasantly crispy and chewy skin gave way to melting fat and collagen, which in turn moistened the tender, stringy (in a good way) strands of meat packed together below. The loin was firm and flavorful. The sprouts, a nice touch of greenery in an otherwise very rich dish. Okay, now this was just getting out of hand. Even the desserts here are memorable?! This is a pub, people! Won’t somebody please start acting like it? I mean, take the Strawberry ice lolly with cake milk, for example. Imagine the audacity to serve something so flavorful and yet so playful at the same time. Cake milk is exactly what it sounds like: milk thickened with delicious buttery cake crumbs. You dip the popsicle (which was lovely on its own, by the way) into the cake milk, eat, and repeat. Then came a tall wedge of a Dark chocolate tart & tangerine ice cream. The chocolate filling was soft like room-temperature butter, and it seemed to stand in defiance of gravity through sheer stubbornness. The flavor was so dense, rich, and intense — bittersweet, incarnate. In fact, my only criticism (and it’s a slight one) was that to my taste, the chocolate and the slightly bitter ice cream together created a mouthful that was nearly acrid. We ended with a wonderful Dessert trio. Yes, we were still eating in a pub(!)… There was a miniature Gypsy tart, with a deliciously sweet condensed milk and brown sugar filling, and a Jasmine tea junket (milk pudding) with breakfast crunch & rosehip syrup. Finally, some green apple sorbet with yogurt & “space dust”. Space dust sounded like a narcotic that might make me even more blissful than I already was, but that’s just what the Brits call Pop Rocks. It was used here to great effect, making the tartness of the sorbet dance around on your tongue. I spoke earlier of the immediacy of Stephen Harris’ food. It has a sense of place and time. It’s right here in Seasalter, right now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. This guy lives, breathes, and cooks with the land and the sea around him. He belongs there. And after eating his food, you feel like you do, too. I’m almost ashamed to tell you how little we paid for this remarkable meal — just £55 a head before wine, if you’ll believe that. I regretted having made dinner reservations elsewhere that evening. And I regret now that I live about 5,400 miles away from this incredibly special place.
  23. what did you have for dessert? and what did you think?
  24. yeah that focaccia is delicious. and i'll agree with my friend the Snob... really a damn good meal.
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