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  1. Ate at Alinea night before last. WOW! Incredible meal! Yes, some theater. And some novelty. But mostly, just incredibly refined, precisely-prepared tastes and textures. I worried that with all the refinement/new techniques/funky molecules there would be some loss of "soul" to the meal. But absolutely not, to me and my wife. The soul was evident through the precision and innovation -- it was abundantly clear that the only way this food could have been imagined, refined, and executed was with a ton of love. A few particularly smart aspects: 1. Aroma was part of the meal but did not ever bleed over from other tables. I liked that. (other menus, e.g. fall with burning oak leaves, might not work so well in this way). 2. The inclusion of an Escoffier retro course, complete with old-school tableware, was a wonderful way to remind the diner that great food is great food and is timeless and that Achatz fits right in with greats like Escoffier. 3. Many courses, but just the right amount of food. 4. Loved Chef Achatz himself plating the last course on the table. Literally. About a month ago my wife and I ate at Per Se and Le Bernadin. Fantastic meals (the latter better than the former). But for both us, Alinea bests them both.
  2. frdagaa

    Morel Mushrooms

    Thanks for experimenting for us! I wonder though about the validity of conclusions when each condition contains just 1/2 a shroom. Better to try fewer conditions and have a little larger sample of each.
  3. Atlanta isn't Michelin-ready, IMO. Not enough high end restaurants. The Michelin stars are given for elegance, service, attention to detail, the dining experience. The food is a part of it but does not trump the other considerations. So I think Woodfire Grill wouldn't even be considered for 1 star. Just not that type of place. Baccanalia, Restaurant Eugene, Quinones Room are the only places that I can think of that might earn a star. No 2 star places here now. The dining room and Seegers were 2 or 3 star type of places, though they had enough faults that even 2 stars might have been a stretch. I think Atlanta is pretty good at the mid-level restaurants. Holeman and Finch, Abtoir, Canoe, Fourth and Swift, Two Urban Licks, those types of places. But those are not on the Michelin radar screen.
  4. frdagaa

    Per Se

    Didn't see a smaller tasting menu. It certainly was an experience, and one that I am very glad I had. Doubt I'll do it again, though.
  5. There's actually a variety called Creole that should work for you if you can find them. I saw them last year and heard good things about them. The named variety 'Creole' is pretty much crap in my garden. It is a low producer, not very disease resistant, and generally lackluster all around; tried it several years running with poor results each time. I'm also annoyed by the co-opting of the general term "creole" for a named variety. Around here, a Creole tomato is any tomato, regardless of variety, that is grown in the alluvial soils deposited by the MS river. Typical farm-grown Creoles are from hybrid varieties like Celebrity; they're heavy, non-symmetrical, and often have healed cracks on the shoulders (thanks to abundant rain). The people I heard from were growing them up here but I was told they were developed for Louisiana (hence the name) so I figured they would work for you. Guess not. ETA: The site I mentioned in my original post has a collection of Hot\Humid varieties that I might order next year (I feel like it's too late this year). http://www.tomatofest.com/tomato-seeds-tropical-hot-humid-collection.html Around atlanta area (~7B) and some years work ok and others don't. Hard to predict. Tried ~ 15 variety of heirlooms. Overall, I guess I've settled on Cherokee Purple as my main squeeze. I LOVE dark fruited tomatoes; incredible depth of flavor. And they seem to do pretty well here whether-wise. Some cracking, but not too bad. This year, finally, I've decided to plant more hybrids along with the heirlooms. That way I assure myself of better production. And the taste is not bad, lets be honest. Good enough for the in-laws, anyway. : )
  6. I'm in NYC and the last three nights we ate at Le Bernadin, Per Se, and Babbo. Very good meals, all. But what I took away was that my meals at Seeger's, The Dining Room, Joel, Bacchanalia, The Quinones Room, Woodfire Grill, and Restaurant Eugene held there own, thank you very much. Soto Soto holds uppretty well against Babbo too. Of course not all of these are on the same level (e.g. Woodfire would never try to compete with Per Se .. different styles of restaurants...) and also, TOO MANY OF THE REALLY FINE ATLANTA RESTAURANTS IN ATLANTA HAVE CLOSED!!! (dammit). So I would never claim that the restaurant scene in ATL is as good as NYC. But we have a lot to be proud of among our best restaurants. Now if we could only bring back (and adequately support so that it stays open!) another Seeger's or Dining Room, we'd be in great shape.
  7. frdagaa

    Per Se

    In NYC for a few days, decided to do it right. Have gone to Le Bernadin, Per Se and Babbo. I am not going to write a full review, but I'd have to say that I was most looking forward to Per Se, and it was the most disappointing of the three. Some of the dishes were sublime -- a foie gras terrine with thinly shaved apples on a vegetable aspic with candied pecans and other stuff..............wow, probably the best single dish I have ever eaten, and I've had many wonderful ones at top restaurants. But also a $40 surcharge on top of a very expensive meal. The problem was that some of the dishes were just too rich, with at least 4 being served with over-reduced broth that was simply too salty. We were all too stuffed and by the end of the meal when all the little additional cookies, truffles, etc. came out we were even making jokes like "quick, let's leave before they bring us any more food!". The restaurant emotionally lost it's grip on us ~ 2/3 through the meal when some of the heavier dishes started piling on top of each other. Am I glad I went? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? Sure, because it's Per Se, dammit! But consider going to other great restaurants for ~ half the price; you might get a better meal.
  8. Anyone have an update on Guenther Seeger? Seems like he's dropped off the face of the earth. Just googling around for recent info turned up nil. Hard to believe for a chef of his (?past) stature.
  9. Just ate at Pil Poul last night. Noted as a top 10 in the DK "athens top 10" guide and sounding decent, we arrived at opening 8PM with no reservation and looking a bit too casual, but were given a table anyway (a Tues night). The restaurant is very close to the Acropolis and Ancient Agora, and tables were on the roof with a spectacular view of the dramatically night-lighted Acropolis. Wow! What an amazing view. The roof-top was appropriately lit and the music was a nice mix of hip/trendy and sophisticated (think Sade), though more than one song seemed a bit out of place (too much techno feel or questionable lyrics for the setting). The waiters were formally dressed and provided excellent service, well balanced; attentive but never hovering, formal yet not stiff. Though it is in Athens, the food certainly is not informed by any Greek culinary tradition that I could identify, and is not dramatically different than what is served in top tasting menu-type restaurants in other international cities. It was solidly grounded in Modern French Cuisine, with little wisps of influence from other cuisines. My wife and I both had the large degustation menu, and to cut to the chase a few courses were so-so (given the quality of the restaurant..still excellent food), and a few were absolutely spectacular. But when you add up the location, the view, the ambience, the service, the food...it was a solid winner in my book. I have not been to any other top-notch high-end restaurant in Athens, but it's hard for me to imagine it not being in the top 10...or even the top 3 or 4. We started out with a cold potato soup garnished with a small piece of foie gras. Taste was good, but it was slightly sticky in texture. One of my least favorite courses. This was followed by an outstanding half-moon shaped foie gras terrine with caramelized strawberry, served with brioche. Probably the best foie gras terrine I've ever had; gorgeous plating, creative use of caramel. Next up for me was a jaw-dropping scallop dish. Two perfectly seared scallops on a bed of carrot puree prepared with just a hint of cumin, with the scallops topped with a rose petal and rosewater gelee. An intensely flavored, bright red, sweet-tart concentrated rose reduction accented the gorgeous presentation. This ranks with the very best dishes I've ever tasted. The flavors worked so well together, and the novelty of rose as a flavoring--yes, I've had it before a number of times, but never so prominently featured--gave the dish a real "WOW!!!" factor. My wife had a lobster dish here than was also good but I think not up to my scallops. It did have a great tomato gelee with it. Next, grouper, perfectly roasted with a glaze of pureed spinach and a sauce of spinach and shrimp, and brunoise of sunchoke. The saltiness and lemon in the sauce with the sunchoke worked very well. Then, getting back from surf to turf, a fantastic 3-4 inch section of pork tenderloin (nicely pink in the center, as it should be) with a black truffle meat-reduction sauce that had a touch of sweetness, and a nice accent of nigella seeds. This was served with potatoes baked and served in a non-edible cylinder made from hay, flour, and spices and topped with a small amount of sweet shallot foam (an excellent touch). The cylinder succeeded in transferring a spicy nuance to the potatoes. A tansition course came next, of liquid shot o' chocolate with a faint greek basil infusion and a chocolate bon-bon containing tonka bean ice cream. Nice subtlety in the chocolate drink; most diners weren't able to identify the basil. Then for desert proper, 2 courses: 1) a chocolate tube (think truffle in the shape of a tube) with chocolate sauce, and on the side Tonka bean ice cream (more than one small bite, this time) on a banana slice and a caramel garnish and 2) a pinapple soup (finely diced pineapples in pinapple juice) with a passionfruit sorbet and again a caramel garnish. This last course was probably the least successful of all. Or maybe the first course. 84 euro each, plus wines (half bottle each of a good greek chardonnay and greek carbernet), so the meal wasn't cheap. But not out of line with the quality of the food and the quality of the experience. Overall, some things I'd nit-pick about if I were reviewing the place formally. Some inedible leaves were used as garnish, and the same type in a couple of courses. Caramel was used in at least three courses, and in fairly prominent ways. The tonka bean ice cream was repeated. At this level, I think it's important to keep each element of every course novel throughout the meal. The music could be slightly improved. As it is, Pil Poul certainly belongs in the company of the other top restaurants I've eaten in (Trotter's, Seegers, Senses, Bacchanalia, The Dining Room in Atlanta). A few changes, and it will be a real gastro-life defining experience, given the setting.
  10. The Atlanta ICA cookoff had corn as its secret ingredient, and Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene won. Taping is scheduled for October, with likely airing February 2007. Congrats, Linton!
  11. Ok, so I'm a few months late. I just finished the book, and I tried reading this thread. I adored all the back-and-forth, but I just couldn't wade through 18 pages of tangential, albeit entertaining, innuendo. The French Laundry chapter clearly galvanized the community here, but to me (not being in the business) the key thing was that the book kinda sucked. I appreciated the inside view, and didn't mind the problem of perspective (OF COURSE it's just view and the "real" truth is more complicated! Duh!), but I just found the writing...actually, the editing...to be horrendous. The whole book is " I did this, then I did this, then I did this (and worked really hard at it), then I did this (and worked really hard at it), etc., etc." There was just no special magic to the prose, no wittiness or insight that could salvage it for me.
  12. Strongly third both of you. Eating at Seeger's is a divine experience.
  13. frdagaa

    The Best Butter

    David Rosengarten did a tasting and published his results in his Oct '04 newsletter. I don't have that handy, but here's what I remember: Smith Creamery butter came out #1 overall (the tests included sauteing, baking, sauces in addition to just eating the stuff e.g. on bread) but I don't think it was #1 for taste spread on bread...but it was close. It isn't readily available except locally (made in Louisiana, I believe) but after the newsletter came out is was available in a "tasting assortment" on iGourmet.com featuring Rosengarten's top butters. I sent that tasting assortment to my foodie parents last Christmas and when I visited I got to taste all of them. I LOVED the Smith Creamery butter. Although I believe it is not cultured, it had a distinctively "cheesy" taste to it. Very rich and flavorful. Also liked all the others, but I forget what they were. ...update... Looking at the Smith Creamery website, I found the following synopsis of The Rosengarten Report butter article. "The report listed Smith Creamery butter as the "best above all others" (5-star). Rosengarten tested over 100 different butters. The second place finishers included: Upstate Farms in Buffalo, Laiterie Le Gall in France, Paris Gourmet from an anonymous dairy, Organic Valley of Farms in Wisconsin, Cooperative Isigny Sainte-Mere in France, Vermont Butter and Cheese company, and 5 more from France, England, Colorado and Pennsylvania." Plugra, BTW, did ok but was certainly not in the top tier. I agree with the comments made above about freshness. Rosengarten also pointed out the importance of freshness/age/storage of the butter. I think these factors are perhaps more important than the brand (at least in the home, where less butter is used and sub-optimal storage is common.
  14. Glad therese mentioned Restaurant Eugene. It's a great addition to the Atlanta restaurant scene. The food is different from the Dining Room or Seegers or Bacchanalia, not quite as much upper-end sophistication, but it is extemely well prepared and does manage to be influenced by southern flavors without overly relying on tired motifs like cheese grits, etc.. The experience of eating there is refreshingly pleasant. Quiet, staid, but not stuffy; elegant, stylish, but THANKFULLY not hyper-trendy like so many failed restaurants in this city (fusebox, commune...) Yes, Seegers service has had problems. I think this might eminate from Chef Seeger himself, who from what I can tell is not the most personable guy around. (see http://www.atlantacuisine.com/chefstalks/guenterseeger.html for a very telling interview with him. Compare it to other chef interviews on the site. Kind of reminds me of Alton Brown). But I must say that 2 of the 3 dinners that I've had there were absolutely fantastic. DR with Menard (don't know if he was physically there that night) was a minor disappointment. Bacchanalia was good, but also a notch below Seegers. Only Atlanta meal that has rivalled those 2 Seegers meals was the DR when Joel Antunes was there. IMO, of course
  15. Being a bench scientist and foodie, many of these ideas resonate strongly with me. In lab I've made purees, pastes and foams, reduced liquids, "cooked" things at very precise precise temperatures, separated aromatic compounds, quick-frozen "meat" and various slurries, sliced tissue 1000 times thinner than any mandoline can do, and the list goes on. Biomedical science and cooking have many things in common, and it's exciting to see someone finally "get" that. I just saw the Polysciences post by chefg, and it's right on; after seeing more discussion about sous vide ~ 1 month ago, I immediately thought of those waterbaths as the ultimate apparatus to carry it out. They are very precise and simple to use and upkeep. There are lots of things we do in a real biomedical lab that can be adapted to a kitchen, as chefg is finding out, and it seems he's making those adaptations. From what I know of lab techniques and equipment, there's probably a lot more to come.
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