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Everything posted by bigred93

  1. To add another to your list - Le St-Urbain. We went tonight based on Aromes' writeup (http://aromes.xanga.com/720604051/the-latest-most-buzzed-restaurant-of-montreal-le-st-urbain/) and can now independently verify everything that was said. We both got the six course tasting with wine pairings. The only course similar to what Aromes experience was what (s)/he called "the doughnuts of heaven". Our other courses: foie mousse; house made boudin noir; braised pork belly with house made kraut and smoked potatoes; duck breast with parsnip puree; wonderful cheese course (the best three of which were Quebec cheeses); the aforementioned doughnuts + chocolate panna cotta. All were excellent, the pork belly and boudin noir being real standouts. And the cheese. Most amazing were the wine pairings - five generous pours of very well chosen wines, none of which I had seen or heard of before, and all of which were imported in small lots either by the restaurant or folks they knew. Here's the kicker - the total cost for two, including an appropriate tip, was C$220. I really don't care much about the cost of a meal - when I'm visiting somewhere, the opportunity cost of wasting a meal on bad food dominates the actual cost of the meal. But, still, no matter how you slice it, it's a screaming bargain. Mostly a local clientele, it seems. Service was very friendly and helpful, and I think folks were pleasantly surprised to have some 'merkins make the trek up from their hotel downtown. The place that this reminded me of was Noca in Phoenix. A bit off the beaten path, not stuffy, not overly formal, but really good high end food served by people who are clearly passionate about it. A really wonderful experience.
  2. Bump... I am particularly interested in options in and around Baden Baden. Does anyone know of a kirsch producer that gives tours? Many thanks!
  3. I am really enjoying this book - hats off to Chang and Meehan. I am running with almost complete success... pickles: hit; ramen broth: fantastic; collard greens: outstanding; bamboo shoots: good; roast pork shoulder: very good; fried chicken: amazing; octo vin: superb; pork buns: grand slam. Would appreciate any feedback on Chang's sequential method for the broth rather than just putting everything all in at once & cooking the whole mess in the oven overnight. The only failure I've had was a truly spectacular one... I had the great idea of making extra praline paste, to use some as layers in a cake and then to have some extra around the house since it lasts a long time. Recipe is easy as pie - ingredients are .5cup hazelnuts; .5cup gran sugar; pinch salt. Instructions: roast nuts. melt sugar to medium brown. put nuts & salt in food proc & start. Pour in melted sugar and run for 3 - 5 minutes. As I said, smart me decided to triple the recipe. Well, as I poured in the hot sugar syrup, and it wanted to start solidifying, the blade couldn't keep up and just stopped after 15 - 20 seconds or so. This was insufficient to have the sugar recrystallize and get broken down by the blade again, and was insufficient to emulsify the whole thing. Oil is seeping out, the whole deal getting harder by the second - until I ultimately have a solid block of hazelnut brittle in the bowl of my food processor. Took about a half hour to get it all out; considered using a chisel. I will not let these damn nuts get the best of me... I will try again as soon as my wife lets me back in the kitchen, after the mess I made.
  4. I am working on making ramen (store bought noodles, all else from cookbook) and am wondering about the sequential nature of the broth - konbu, mushrooms, chicken, pork, veg, all more or less one at a time and in that order. I am a fan of the Ruhlman overnight oven method for stocks, so the repetitive add-it-in-and-fish-it-out order of the ramen broth process makes that difficult. Does anyone know if there's a proven reason to doing the extractions separately? Taking longer doesn't matter to me, but if you can't get good extraction from a mushroom when you're also trying to get extraction from a pork bone, then that would be worth knowing. Thanks!
  5. The "rules" I was talking about relate to combinations of time and temperature to make sure you kill off the bad stuff, as well as an understanding of a couple of outlier bad things like botulinum toxin. Look at this thread: specifically post #14. If that catches your interest, read everything NathanM has ever written on egullet.
  6. FG, I went through a period a few months ago of experimentation in making yogurt at home. I found that there were dramatic differences in consistency depending on the starter culture. Some would have a set gel like a custard (Dannon); others would be more fluid, but have an almost stretchy consistency (Stonyfield). Doing a little reading on the subject, it appears that a combination of culture "breed" and fermentation environment yield very different protein chains in the final product. There's a Finnish yogurt called "viili" (långfil in Sweden) that has such a stretchy consistency that it's almost taffy-like. Anyway, I would guess that straining these different products could yield wildly different end results.
  7. To echo a few other thoughts here: 1. Flour, lots of flour. Wet(ish) doughs can be fine - in fact, I think they tend to make the best crusts - but use lots of flour when shaping, resting, and stretching. 2. Flour, not cornmeal on the peel - I find that the particle size of cornmeal can lead to unevenness in the layer between the wood and the pie. The sticking problems I always had were not where the whole pie stuck, but rather where one part of it did and the rest didn't... I found it to be harder to make an even "barrier layer" between the pie and the peel using cornmeal. Lots of flour gives a much more consistent result. 3. Work quickly. Shape the dough on a counter, at least most of the way; dust it; dust the peel; put the dusted side of the dough on the peel and finalize the shape; top the pie; get it in the oven. Bing, bam, boom. Sticking problems are directly correlated to time on the peel. This makes sense if you think about it, because you depend on that barrier layer of flour (or cornmeal) to stay dry. The longer you give it, the more chance it has to absorb liquid from the crust (or spilled sauce / tops), hydrate and get sticky. 4. Use a dry, wooden peel. My peel is fairly rough, and it seems like that actually helps build up a nice flour layer on the peel - so I'd lean towards a rough wood peel over a smooth one, and metal is a non-starter for getting the pizza in (good for removal though!) Thoughts on parchment and that peel thingy that someone said doesn't do well at high heat... as you probably already know, the big deal with excellent pizza is high heat and direct contact of the crust to a very hot stone or other surface. I'd be very reluctant to move to solutions that break those parameters. If you're getting your stone hot enough, I would think the parchment would burn off (IIRC Bradbury's book Fahrenheit 457 was named that because it's the combustion temp of paper, right?). Besides, there always seems to be some special magic of the direct connection between the stone and the crust that makes it extra special... there could be a little bit of absorbency to the stone that helps, although that's just speculation on my part. Good luck!
  8. I own an old VWR water bath that I bought on ebay from a lab equipment supplier; it works fine, although the dial with gradations of 1 - 10 makes it troublesome to tune. I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to mark off the equivalent temperatures. At the very least, if they didn't want to do specific temps, I wish they could have had the dial go to 11. Anyhow, I think this is a great product idea and very well priced. I got my water bath for $150 or so IIRC, so having a bath with temp control and racks and in "new" condition - rather than having to give it a vigorous cleaning like I did mine - is a very good tradeoff. Had this product been on the market when I was looking, I would have bought the sous vide supreme rather than go the used lab equipment route. The one thing that concerns me is the granularity of the temperature control. Sous vide can be very safe if the operator knows just a few key rules, but the wrong combination of sanitation / temperature / time could yield some very, very bad results. I didn't see anything on the website about the temp control range, specifically the bath having temp control down to 120F (or lower), which is necessary to get the full functionality of the cooking method - rare beef; fish; etc. The thought of someone (stupidly) cooking a poorly handled piece of chicken sous vide for an hour at 120F, though, gives me the willies. I wouldn't want to buy the unit if it didn't do low temp. But what lawyer would allow these guys to sell the unit if it did? I hope I'm just being cynical about the litigiousness of American society, but it's something I'd least want to check before buying this thing. If some lawyer or insurance carrier made them cap out the low end at 150F, it would be a lot less useful.
  9. Hi everyone, Thanks for all the feedback - just wanted to let folks know where and how we ended up. We went to Emerald Chinese in Mississauga for dim sum lunch, which was tasty and a lot of fun. For dinner we went to Trevor, and had a really great meal there - I was able to twist my friends' arms to get the tasting menu, which they were glad for in the end. It was a great opportunity to sample the breadth of their cuisine as well as to get a few whimsical tastes (foie wrapped in chicken skin, served with homemade wing sauce and quebec blue cheese; a blt consomme, which was tremendously impressive: a clear liquid blt in a demitasse.) Great way to spend the evening. Certainly none of the service issues that another poster had referred to... we felt like we were treated very well. Thanks again everyone for the feedback - you've given us great ideas for next time too!
  10. Hi all, I am going to be in Toronto this Saturday and am looking for a recommendation for a place I can take two friends. We've been to the Jamie Kennedy wine bar before, and enjoyed it a great deal; I'm tempted to go back, but it seems a shame to not branch out if other places are deserving. That said, the kind of quality (lots of care), cost (moderate) and vibe (casual, hip, fun) seen there is what we're looking for. Any ideas? Cowbell?
  11. bigred93


    I had to chuckle when reading this post, as our experience last night was very similar. I was thinking "well, day before Thanksgiving, most likely they're not playing the varsity", but interesting to see similar complaints. My wife and I got the tasting menu - I got the wine pairings, which were uniformly excellent. Most of the courses were very good as well - the sheep - milk agnolotti were a particular hit. However, the service was iffy at best. Same problem with the butter; one small pat for the two of us and the four large pieces of bread. No amuse (even though our neighbors who ordered a la carte got one), straight into the meal, which was delivered very fast - and cleared just as fast. I turned my head and wasn't able to get the busboy to leave my last swallow of wine; plates were cleared with food on them, without asking. The main waiter was nice and somewhat knowledgable, but the runners didn't have a clue and weren't in tune with trying to time the wine and food together. Overall a nice meal and I'd consider going back to order a la carte, but the service was definitely lacking for a $400+ meal for two, even giving them some extra credit for it being a low-priority day. Other than the excellent sommelier (seriously, the best set of wine pairings I've had in a long time), the front of the house seems to be resting on their laurels.
  12. Do you know if they have any tables for walk-in customers, or are all tables reserved only? Thanks!
  13. I am heading to Montreal with four friends (so five of us total). We'll be there on a Saturday night. I called for a reservation, and not surprisingly all they had was 10pm. It's not the end of the world, but we'd like to go earlier if we possibly can. Do any of you know if they have tables set aside for walk-ins, or is everything on a reservation basis? Do you think we'll have any luck if we show up early and just start drinking at the bar (tough duty, I know)? Any suggestions appreciated!
  14. Hi all, I am going to London with my wife, mother in law and three year old son. We'll be staying in Bloomsbury. We'd very much appreciate any restaurant recommendations you might have for places that are interesting, of quality, and not too difficult to get to from Bloomsbury (Russell Sq) by tube, but at the same time casual enough to be appropriate for a three year old. Cuisine is not that important, we're pretty adventurous. Appreciate any advice! Thanks
  15. I've been experimenting with pizza for several years now. Some thoughts/additions to the conversation, specific to a thin crust, neapolitan style pie. Nothing against casserole-style Chicago "pizza" but that's a different animal altogether and one I can't comment on. 1. Peter Reinhart wrote an awesome book called American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. It's excellent, both from a historical perspective as well as for recipes and to provide a general understanding of the intricacies of the process. 2. The higher the temperature, the better, with the following three points in mind: 2a. In my opinion, by far the best flavor outcome for crusts is when you achieve browning of the flour's natural sugars (an oversimplification) rather than the addition of outside sugars. If you add honey, sugar, milk, those sugars will brown first and will burn faster, before the flour converts and browns, and this will also require cooking at a lower temp to balance the potential burning of the crust to the cooking of the toppings. Generally: less sugar in the dough buys you time to cook the rest of the pie. 2b. Flour is important. The higher the temp you can use, the less protein you can use in your flour, yielding a more delicate inside crust. At wood oven temps, I'd suggest 50% pastry and 50% a/p flour. At conventional oven temps, I'd suggest more like 100% a/p (but no bread) flour. The 50/50 mix will come out to cracker-y at conventional oven temps. You're looking for a crisp outer crust and delicate, flavorful insides... bread flour will be too tough in my opinion. Anyway, it's worth experimenting with given your own oven and flour supplies... you'll be surprised how much of a difference it makes. 2c. Don't roll your crust, stretch it - it helps develop the gluten, and also gives you thinner crusts. Use enough flour on your hands and it's not too hard, you'll get the hang of it quickly. Then, top the pie sparingly. IMO folks tend to over-stuff their pizzas. I also agree wholeheartedly with some other points about using the long, slow development process... this time of year especially, I like to use as little yeast as I can get away with and then I let it develop in a covered bucket in a cold closet for 24 or even 48 hours. Lastly, use as much water as you can while maintaining a shapable dough. The high temps in the oven of course dehydrate fast, and this helps keep a toothsome end product. Hope this helps, best of luck!
  16. Upside down bus tub and a seed sprouting heating mat. Works like a charm.
  17. FWIW we had a party earlier in the summer of about the same size - a little over 100, many of whom were kids. Went through a little brisket (10lbs or so) and about 6 broiler size chickens, and ~50 - 60 lbs of butts. (The brisket and chix were intended as options for those disinclined to pig, hence the uneven distribution of meat.) We cooked off about twice that much pork but fortunately it makes for excellent leftovers - my deep freeze is filled with vacuum packed frozen bricks of piggish deliciousness.
  18. That last statement is almost a non sequitur. In the example that I used, I explicitly defined the value that I would put on the product (in this case an heirloom tomato, the product of the farmer's 'work and service' as you put it). The issue isn't that it doesn't have value, the issue is that the value I place on the product he's selling isn't the same as the value that he puts on it himself. That's very different than saying that it's valueless. Again - if you were the farmer running this business, wouldn't you rather have the opportunity to decide if you'd rather sell the product at $2, or wait for someone to meet your price? The way it stands right now, I as the consumer have the option to take the price the farmer set or not. If I'm unwilling to buy at the set price but would be willing at a lower price, doesn't giving the farmer the option to meet that price make him better off? He's under no obligation and can freely say "no thanks". But it's providing an option he didn't have before.
  19. I don't haggle at farmers markets either, for many of the reasons enumerated above - mostly, I want to remain respectful of the folks who are selling at the market. Which, upon reflection, strikes me as sad and wasteful. An example: I was at the market last Saturday and there was a booth where the farmer was selling beautiful heirloom tomatoes, about orange-sized, for $3. Not $3 a pound, $3 each. They were beautiful tomatoes, but for $3 each I just kept walking. Didn't seem like they were selling a lot, either. Thinking about it now, I would have been much more tempted had the price been more like $1.50 or $2.00 or so. Of course, I didn't say anything, because I wanted to be respectful. But what if I had? The tomato was worth $2 to me, and maybe the farmer would in the end have been happier to sell one for $2 rather than not sell one at all. Or maybe he would have rather said no thanks, I'll wait and see if someone will pay the $3 I'm looking for. Aren't we actually better off for having had that conversation? By me walking away silently, I guarantee myself no tomato, and the farmer guarantees himself no sale. Maybe we wouldn't have agreed to terms, but, really, what's the harm in starting the conversation?
  20. Just thought I'd bump this thread rather than start a new one... will be in Chicago Thursday night with family (6 total including a toddler) and am looking for someplace interesting, fun, and cares about food, ideally Michigan Ave / River North (we are staying on Michigan a block or two north of the river). Was thinking Frontera, if we can get in; it may be a little pricey for folks. Other options would be Vong, Ben Pao, Vermilion. Ultimately I'm trying to dissuade my family from dragging me to a Friday's or Giordano's. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!
  21. Annette, Looks great. May I ask - why the twine?
  22. bigred93

    Steak at home

    Regarding the question of how much heat is the right amount of heat for a sear, I tried an experiment recently with some dry-aged ribeyes. I was firing my wood oven and towards the end (the cladding was up around 800F or so) I threw my cast iron pan into the tail end of the fire (mostly hot embers but a little live flame left). Left it there about 15 minutes. It did create a wonderful seared crust on the steaks (finished in a low oven to medium rare) but there were three problems. First off, with the first steak I put the steak-laden pan back in the oven, and the rendered fat caught fire, which gave a little bit of bitter flavor to the steak. The other one I cooked outside, relying on the retained heat in the pan and that worked better. Second, I burned through my oven mitts - I needed to hold the pan handle with a wet towel and then hold that with the oven mitt, and even then not for long. 800F (or higher as it was in the fire itself) is pretty darn hot. Which leads to the last problem, which is that all the lovely seasoning on the pan had burned off. Still, it was worth it... in the name of science of course.
  23. http://www.ovencrafters.net/ Life is a lot more fun with several tons of masonry in the yard... I highly recommend it.
  24. This is a problem with baking pizza in regular home ovens. Unless you have a very thick pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven that you preheat for a long time on the highest heat setting, the pizza cooks too slowly and by the time the pizza is cooked all the moisture has cooked out of the thin dough, any initial oven spring has collapsed and you are left with a hard, cracker-like crust. This is especially problematic if the pizza is burdened with too much topping. I agree wholeheartedly on not over-burdening your pie.... since we got the oven up and running I've been on a downward trajectory in my ratio of toppings:crust and results have continually improved. For that reason, and also because frankly I'm a little anal, I've not repeated the "make your own pie" party. Pizzas sticking to the peel because someone ripped a hole in the crust as they were spreading the quart of sauce they threw down, or pies coming out a glopping mess of a pound of cheese... no thanks.
  25. I've done a lot of experimentation and have settled on our "house blend" being 50% AP (King Arthur Artisan or Arrowhead Mills), 30% white unbleached pastry flour (local co-op has a product in bulk that's good and I haven't asked them who makes it) and 20% whole wheat pastry flour (usually Arrowhead Mills). I've had excellent luck with it - you need to be a little careful, it doesn't stand up as well as 100% KA Artisan, for example, but it's still stretchable and the results have been toothsome and really excellent. We like the addition of 20% finely milled wheat (low-protein) flour, as it seems to provide a more robust, well, wheaty flavor than pure white flour. The temperature impact is one I can't really address - we have a wood-fired brick oven, so I'm usually baking off at 700F +, but have not noticed anything close to a "shattering" consistency as you've mentioned; quite the opposite - on the edges, the outer crust is crisp but quickly yields to a puffy and soft interior. Hope this helps.
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