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Simon Sunwoo

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Everything posted by Simon Sunwoo

  1. Hello Everyone, I am taking this time to reintroduce myself to Egulleteers, now on the Spanish message board (thank God that the Spanish keyboards are more similar to American keyboards than the French) to inform everyone that I have made the transition from France to Spain, or from Provence to Cataluna to be more exact. Yes, I finally decided to pack up my now considerable belongings and see for myself where all the hype of the new Spanish Culinaria is coming from. No I am not at El Bulli, even though one day I might end up being a dead cat (you know what curiosity--anyway) but decided to go for the more "grounded" cuisine of Santi Santamaria at El Raco de Can Fabes. Thanks, in part, to Mr. Buxbaum, to what many of you have written about Spain and its emergence as a culinary tour de force, and to an old colleague/sommelier from my first year at L'Oustau de Baumaniere who now works for Chef Santamaria, I decided to make a reservation at El Raco de Can Fabes. In my last post, Staggaire´s Story, some two years ago on the French message board, I was at the beginning of my culinary odyssey at the highly acclaimed, L'Oustau de Baumaniere, a once three but now two Michelined starred Provencal restaurant. In brief, I had read numerous books on becoming a chef stating the importance of grounding oneself as a cook in French technique, so I discussed this possiblility of doing a stage in France with my chef at the time, Wolfgang Puck. The story still exists to my knowledge on the French board, archived probably somewhere two years ago for those interested. Initially, I was supposed to stay for a short stage (pronounced the French way with a soft "a") for a month but the short stage turned into a 26 month job to which I ended up working as demi chef de partie (not going into the French Brigade system) in both Rotisserie and Garde Manger. In short, I advanced as high as an American staggaire could advance without taking over a "real" title. I wasn´t paid handsomely for my toil, nor was I ever embraced within the organization (not saying their was an anti-American sentiment--just that I wasn´t French), but what I experienced and learned, I feel to be invaluable. In the end, I had a very comforatable life in Provence, with many advantages and benefits, but I knew that it was time to move on. So with a higher appreciation for Provencal cuisine, wine and life (all pretty much synonomous), I decided I wanted to see the bigger picture of French cuisine. So, I asked the owner of Baumaniere, Jean Andre Charial, for assistance in placing me into one of the many Parisian starred restaurants (Pierre Gagnaire being at the head). He responded by saying he would try and then I waited and waited and waited--to no reponse. Later when I wore out all patience, I asked him the possiblility of working in a three star in Paris to which he replied--en bref, je ne pouvais pas t'aider. The problem was I wasn´t European. That is exactly when I took matters into my own hand and initiated a new game plan. First, I would mail out a curriculum vitae to all the restaurants I wanted to work at, then follow up with a personal visit to all the restaurants and then if necessary beg and plead. All this was unneccessary in the end, when by chance an old acquaintance/colleague now close friend showed up at Baumaniere and mentioned he was working for a three star in Spain. My eyes lit up and so we got to talking and more talking...to which it was settled, I would eat there and present myself. We made a reservation and thus the process was set in motion. I talked a friend, another sommelier from Baumaniere, into driving down and joining me to eat at Can Fabes. I think the conversation went something like, "hey there's a three star next to Barcelona, do you want to go" to which he responded "Barcelona, three star, party %&$/ yeah! You need to take off an extra two days" Well obviously the meal itself was extraordinary and with some interesting Spainish wines, a Gramada white and Penedes red, I was sold. The only real problem, apart from actually getting a chance to work there, was apart from some of the more--lets say inappropriate language I learned from the many Mexican cooks back in Santa Monica, I didn´t know a word of Spanish. That was OK by me and perfect revenge for my eventual return--now I will know what those guys are saying to me behind my back. Who am I kidding, it was never behind my back but straight to my face. Luckily Santi Santamaria speaks French and we discussed my background and such for a brief minute and that was it. I didn't hear back from them for what seemed an eternity. Basically I gave up hope and was planning to stay the rest of the season, til the end of December at Baumaniere (it being the beginning of June), and during their annual closure (January and February), make my assault on Paris. Fine, that will buy me time, I thought til one day out of the blue some three months after we had dined there, I get a call from Javier Torres, head chef at Can Fabes with not only a job proposal but a real position (chef de partie--something unattainable at Baumaniere) and a real salary. I obviously grew very excitied and maybe prematurely called everyone about the news. Well after a month of not hearing from them and then hearing from the chef but with nothing definitive, I conitinued to do what I was all too tired of doing--wait. In this time, I started to wonder--well they know I'm American, they know I don´t know how to speak Spanish, they know I was never a chef de partie in a three star restaurant--this is just too good to be true. Well eventually before my grand depart, we hatched out some details--well one, my start date--Sept. 30-- the rest was up in the air. I knew lodging would be provided, what I didn´t know was that I would share a room a bit larger than the one I had at Baumaniere (where I was living single) with not one but two other cooks--who have both since left. I have an empty bunkbed to look at when I wake up now. I knew I would be fed one meal a day. What I wasn´t prepared for was the 14 hoer work days which ended in scrubbing the kitchen from figurative head to toe, the overworked cooking staff who threaten to and then actually quit without notice, the relentless amount of tedious repetition necessary in achieving consistency in the upper echelons of fine dining followed up with more attentiveness to details, details, details. Yes, I am now chef de partie, garde manger, but for the last month I worked like a staggaire with chef de partie responsiblities. That is to say, there is nothing beneath me in terms of what is required of me. If I need to deshell 15 kilos of buy de mar (crab) and make sure there isn´t a milligram of shell in the final process, I need to do that. I don´t know if any of you have done this before, but in short, its a pain in the ass. Ask me to deshell five kilos of shrimp everyday, thats fine, but deshelling--index finger by index finger of every gram of meat--doing it again-- and then again--five solid hours is fairly torturous. I remember writing in my last post about my Baumaniere hell week (basically a week without my chef de partie--who was in the US at the time-- which had me working 14 hour days)--well I just signed up for a hell year. I did this in my last post--a shameful plea for pity. Well there is no looking back so to speak. Again, not to make things sound worse than they are for cinematic affect, I work like a dog for around 75-80 hours a week just to say I worked in a three star restaurant. One might ask, "well are you learning at least", to which I have to smile a sardonic, contemptuous smile and say, "I'm learning a lot" but what I really want to say is "I'm learning to work and work hard." I think in the end that is the difference between great restaurants and good restaurants. We could call it quits after lets say the tenth hour and have satisfactory results. I would honestly say that half the customers would hardly notice the difference, but we don´t quit . We could call it quits after the twelth hour and none but a few of the customers would notice the difference, but we don't because we, the people in the kitchen, know the difference. I think this is of vital importance. Before, I asked, "is it really necessary to do _____, noone will know the difference" but every effort in the kitchen is noticeable, even if it is only incremental. Someone kick me off my soapbox for heaven´s sakes. Of course, I am here for the same reasons many of you come here for--the search for quality. Its here and here in abundance. I have never seen so many mushroom hunters come in with prized "oy de reys", cepes (with heads so dark and bodys so heavy) and many varieties I´ve never seen before--it raining about everyday now, definately paying the price for the heat wave of the past summer. The produce is excellent, coming either from our weekly run to France or from the numerous farmers, ranchers and food artisans from the region. I love working with all the fresh seafood and the suckling pigs, beef...well basically everything we get is incredible. Although the hours are long, and this is where I do my customary about face, I love what I'm doing here. It is worth the price. At least I can say I work long tedious hours along side with Santi Santamaria--he being infatigable as well. As far as my opinion of Santi Santamaria--I am falling in love with the man. He is generous to a fault (mis en place takes big hits), and absolutely unfaltering in his pursuit for perfection. An absolute pleasure to work for, even if he has his darker moments--naturally. I just hope some of his passion for eating and living rubs off on me. I would like to take this opportunity to thank eGullet again and to Robert Buxbaum again for organizing such a gell informed site. I live for this kind of stuff and although I seem to be longwinded in my account of personal events, I hope it gives some insight into the "other side" of restaurant life. Being an English major, I always ponder the bigger questions of dining, such as a wonderful article about deconstructionism and El Bulli. The last time I spoke to an old professor at UCLA, I asked, definately ignorantly, what seems to be the next thing after post modernism (the reinvention of the classic) and are we seeing signs of a Hegelian thesis, antithesis to synthesis pursuit towards "zeitgeist" (seems very foolish in hindsight) and he responded by saying there seems to be something seen as postcolonialism. Just to get a head start on new restaurant trends, I am wondering, the more and more food attains the level of art instead of craft, can we take modern discourses of art and apply them to trends in restaurants? That is, are such discourses driving influence in fine dining? It seems to be one way in analyzing what Ferran Adria is doing and thus the following trend he has caused? I am sure this subject has been done to death already, but if there is a new era of postcolonialism, does that mean that a new trend for restaurants is to revert back to more "traditional" values and although we cannot discount the effects of multicultural "fusion" we need to pay more heed to the colonized and less to the colonial powers? Last thing on this mental self pleasuring exercise, what restaurants do some of you see in my future? If one were to open a quintessential California restaurant, one would hope to have Mediterranean influences, Asian influences and of course exposure to other Californian/Pacific Coast restaurants, but what other restaurant, region would round off my culinary career? Pierre Gagnaire? Tuscany? Piedmont? Pais Vasco? Will be looking in anxiously, Simon
  2. I am sending out a bid for knowledge, so I would appreciate anyone who would be able to help. I have now been at Can Fabes for two months and we still have sold out weekends, even if weekdays have slowed a bit down, so I have little spare time to make requests. It seems funny--to me at least--that what I've been doing on my days off is returning back to the kitchen, but this time trying to learn more 'typical' Spanish cuisine. Its exactly these times I feel the most inadequate being a chef de partie in a world renowned Spanish or more precisely Catalunyan (I still don´t know how to spell it) restaurant. Sure give me a dozen dishes and a couple of weeks, and I can start an efficient game plan for mis en place and such, but get me in a home kitchen with other Spanish cooks and I am at a loss as to where to start. So I just do what I do best and peeled some onions and tomatoes and started making, I guess a suffrito and then while this was slowly simmering in the oven, I made my way down to the Boqueria in Barcelona and saw much the same produce as most anywhere in Provence--normal. You see, I was in charge of coming up with an entree (being garde manger) for a dinner at going away party. A fellow cook, Albert,who worked formally at Louis XV, and then came for a one month stage at Can Fabes was leaving to become sous chef at a new Ducasse restaurant in Switzerland. We got to talking-- because not speaking much Spanish, he was the only cooks I could converse with in French-- about menu suggestions and this got a couple of others talking and it was set, we would all come up with one dish and my other French speaking friend, Can Fabes' sommelier, would pick out the wines. OK, it was set, we would all be eating around 10, Monday night. Great, I would just drop in at the Boqueria, find some inspiration, pick out some good produce and voila, a dish. Then it dawned on me that, apart from the tortillas, paella and such I've eaten at tapas bars, I hadn't the foggiest idea of what really comprises Spanish cuisine yet alone Catalunyan cuisin. Well, lets just say thank god the produce was fresh and a salad started to materialize relatively easily. I know, not very interesting until you get down and look at some of the more unusual or high quality ingredients, such as cordifol, tetragon and glacial (all types of salads which I believe comes from France), the abundance of amazing looking nuts (I chose macadamian and Californian walnuts), of course hoja de robles, frise, and endibia--then I just went Californian with an aquacate. OK, it being Monday, there wasn't an abundance of seafood, or lets say fresh seafood in the Boqueria, so I opted not to take the chance on some overly strong smelling gambas--but what I thought this salad needed was some protein--seafood protein. Luckily, there was a salted seafood stand which had bacalao and such and there is where I first saw a salt dried morceau of tuna. I asked the dinner guest about what it was and they shrugged their shoulders and I guess the name mojama came up, and so thats what I'm calling it. The salad was uninteresting yet satisfying as most all salads are, but lets get to the "meat" of the story. Next came an abundant array of local specialties from Alberts home town of Terragon (sp?). We had a plato de cecima de buey (cured beef), two Tarragonian savory tarts, Coca de Ceba and Coca de Espinaca Panier i Pinyons. He also brough a non Terragonian soprasada from the Ile de Majorca. Then another cook came up with a sauteed beef dish with onions and bellpeppers, but he kick I guess was that the beef came from Castilla Leon (meant nothing to me, but it was simple but good--simply good). And then the last dish was a heartstopper which was called Sopa Boracho (I believe, tongue in cheek, this was not traditional). Picture a hearty dish with chickpeas, pork, chorizo, onions, bellpeppers and such. Not the most elegant of dishes, but when you ate it, you knew you were full. Finally for dessert, Albert made a chocolate sauce wh¡ch we poured over a local bizcocho of sorts--Pa de Pessic. We drank mostly Spanish wine, apart from the Grande Annee Bollinger 95 to start, and a Condrieu, Chery 2000. My impression of Spanish wine, which was again reconfirmed at this dinner only to be dispelled at the end, was that in general, they lack the finesse of French wines--although I proclaim to be nothing of a wine expert. I note some problems of balance, overly forward noses with lackluster finish. I haven´t been overly exposed to the Trempanillo so I don´t know if it is a peculiarity of the vinification or the grape itself, but lets say I much prefer the more French varietals in red--although much Grenache and Syrah as well as Cabernet Sauvignon is used here. Again, I am no wine expert, and have not had a full Spanish wine tasting (even if it were possible) but the Rioja, La Cuevade Contador 2000 and Toro, Nvmanthia 2000 were only two more examples of less inspiring wines. Then, came the bottle of Ribero del Duero, Vega Sicilia, 1999 (not even supposed to be available yet). Everything was dispelled. Long discussion of this wine led me to argue that it was reminiscent of a Bordeaux Right Coast, to which my sommelier friend disagreed saying more Bordeaux Left Coast. I do as usual and deferred, really only trying to sound opinionated, but there was no doubt that this was a great wine. Even more, I could only imagine what this wine would do with age. My god, from the nose to the finish, there was a finesse, a notable equilibrium that I have not before seen in a Spanish wine. Than again, like I keep saying, and what I keep regurgitating (nasty for a cook to use such a word) is what has been discussed at many a wine tasting with my French colleague. Well, I know this was supposed to be a bid for knowledge, and what I´ve learned from the dinner after being schooled in the three DO of Jamon (Huelva, Guijuelo, Etremadura) and the seven races of porc used (Lampino de la Serena, Lampino del Guadiana, Mamellado, Entrepelado, Torbiscal, Manchado de Jabugo, Dorado Baditano), and other such tidbits, I do not have any basis to compare the one ham to the other, or apart from marbeling, what I should look for in buying Jamon. What is your point--I guess what I am attempting to ask is what outstanding produce or dishes or techniques are unique to Cataluna and what should I not miss out on experiencing in my time here in Spain. I suppose I am also looking for context. Why, apart from the phenomenom known as El Bulli, has Spain emerged as the up and coming contendor in world cuisine. Yes, slow cooking, suffrito, escalibada and escabeche and such contribute, but what I have noticed is much French technique in Can Fabes with a terra/mar mix, which is exemplary of the style here. Whatever I can't put my finger on, I seem to be sensing. There seems to be larger liberty in Spanish cuisine mixed with a strong heritage. It seems as though after a long sejour under the Franco regime, Spain has emerged as a more tolerant and liberal society willing to experiment--maybe to a fault-but always with a degree of prudence. I guess that is why I am here. To see what will become of the cuisine and culture here--it seems the whole world is curious as well. Simon
  3. Simon Sunwoo

    El Raco de Can Fabes

    BTW, does anyone know where I can find espardenyes a la plancha in Barcalona or nearby?
  4. Simon Sunwoo

    El Raco de Can Fabes

    Dosconz- it was also a great pleasure meeting you. Thanks for the great photos of me and the crew busy at work. Oh yeah the food doesn't look so bad either. Well my insiders menu could change from day to day, but with my parents I chose to go with mostly the classics. Well we started with the typical amuse geules with a glass of Cava Gran d'Abbatis Brut Nature. I have to say, Santi's amuses are some of the most striking of all the three stars I've eaten at here in Spain. Then I let the super sommelier, Juan Carlos Ibanez, choose our wines for us. He chose a wine from a vineyard we had visited together in the late spring, Can Rafols dels Caus, El Rocallis 2000 Penedes. This is a fine example of the great mineral whites that are coming from this up and coming region. This was to accompany the first few courses which included in order: --"Tomaco" a la albahaca-- a mock tomatoe made by adding gelatin to tomatoe sauce then pouring the mixture into silipad half dome molds. Once chilled and set, you take a mellon baller and scoop out the core, fill with a basil creme anglaise of sorts, put the two half domes together to form a tomatoe sphere (fools a lot of people who think its nothing but a peeled tomato). It is garnished with a sprig of basil, thinly sliced onion and thinly sliced crouton and then drizzeled with a basil oil. --Ravioli de Gambas al Aceite de "ceps" Santi Santamaria-- this dish used to be the bane of my existence for although not complicated to make, takes a long time to prepare. The filling is nothing but a duxelle of cep and onion confit. The ravioli is formed from a mold filled with flattened Gambas de Blanes (red shrimp right from the region, fresh, delicious and expensive). You see four or five flattened shrimp is used as the "pasta" to encase the cep duxelle. The gambas are raw when first used but pass for less than a minute under the salamander before going out, bare seizing the shrimp which is now between raw and semi cooked. --Caviar con Tocino--a great dish again. Classic too. Pork fat from the neck of the pig is slow braised (sous vide) then reheated a la minute, placed onto a unctuous island of potato puree surrounded with a foamy "mantaquilla salsa" and topped with Osetra caviar. Sounds a little bizarre at first but once you take your first bite--Mar y Montanya at its finest. This is when we switched wines, where Juan Carlos chose a suave Valenciso 1998 Rioja. --Llagosta y Espardenyes con Salsa Curry-- Again nothing complicated here. Just impeccably fresh or should I say live spiny lobster and Espardenyes (something well discussed before here on Egullet) a la plancha with a curry sauce. If I learn nothing more that remembering all the seafood I've eaten off this chrome like plancha, I've learned enough. It is one of the finest ways to cook not only fish but a myriad of other food. BTW, for me espardenyes may be one of my favorite things to eat, but very expensive as well. I will need to find a source in the states for them, because I am already having cravings--but luckily still living in Sant Celoni. I have to say the Valenciso was not over the top for this dish and with the curry accents went very well. I don't quite know if the 100% Tempranillo makes for a more sublte and elegant wine or if it was the deftness of the vignerons, but I also tremedously enjoyed it with our next course as well. --Pollo de Bresse (Poulet de Bresse)-- This is where a simple dish hides its somewhat more complex preperation. As has been widely discussed elsewhere in this site, cooking sous vide or vacio (as its known here), gives more control and thus a better finished product. Carved tableside--all I can say is luxurious dining. The cheese course gives you a cornucopia of excellent Spanish cheeses, that I can confess I do not know enough about. A couple of interesting Catalan cheeses are: Cendrat- covered with ashes, Montsec- local hard goats cheese and one of my favorites-Mahon-- made from Freisan cow's milk. I love to tell myself that I am not a big dessert eater, but usually I will have a bite of someone elses. I opted this time to skip dessert and just take sorbets and the mignardise. At this point, I would have liked to have sat around and smoked a Cuban cigar from their great collection (just cause they're not easily obtained in the US and for these prices--got to give them a try), but my parents frown on such activitites. Plus I am not a big cigar smoker. I would like to note that if not for the recent thread on Poulet de Bresse in the French forum I would probably have chosen the Cabrito a la salvia--but I had tried the cabrito enough and was curious to try the Bresse Can Fabes style--plus knowing my aging parents and knowing Santi's generous portions--the cabrito would have been overkill--deliciuos but rich.
  5. Simon Sunwoo

    El Raco de Can Fabes

    Sorry for the late post but I have been on a job search/eating extravaganza. Dosconz, I would be surely astonished if you came down with something due to the food at Can Fabes, but stranger things have happened. What you ate are called gambas plasticos--I believe due to the plastic like shells of the shrimp, and they arrive every morning fresh from the purveyor and are under maticulous scrutiny and storage once they arrive. Usually, the dish would have been under my supervision--coming from garde manger/cuatro frio, but being the end of my stay here (my last day in fact), I had left as chef de partie some two weeks earlier and was just general help/advisor that day, so I cannot say precisely if they (the shrimp) were suspect that day. The gambas crudo are laid on a bed of brunoise of manzana verde (green apple), topped with lemon confit, tomatoes, red bellpepper, xtra virgen olive oil and a caviar sauce. I had eaten at the restaurant with my parents last week but opted to select my own menu--one of the benefits of being an insider. I can say that it made for a great last impression on me-- as will Catalunya and Spain.
  6. Simon Sunwoo

    Aligue

    Docsconz, when you arrive at Can Fabes, drop by in the kitchen, it would be a pleasure to meet you. It is also my last day of work there.
  7. Simon Sunwoo

    Martin Berasategui

    Rgrugby, yes Martin Berasetegui is easily accessible by train from San Sebastian if youre having lunch (don't think they'll be running after you finish a three star dinner). I forget the exact details but the local train system brings you right into Lasarte and then it is a relatively short walk, about a mile along a fairly suburban neighborhood, to his restaurant. Once there just ask around and hopefully the locals will point you in the right direction. One lady walked me about 2/3 the way, and we had a lovely chat on the way as well. I believe for the whole, I paid about 5 euros for the trip. Remember, there are a couple of train stations in San Sebastian. Just ask the person at the hotel or pension and most likely they will be extremely helpful. BTW, MB was the highlight of my trip there. Enjoy.
  8. BTW, I got to try my first datiles de mar this summer and its too bad there isn't a more environmentally friendly means of harvesting them. They were exceptional.
  9. Very interesting topic. I, having worked with some items I had never even seen back in the states, and others I have worked with but never in its wild form, would like to know the legalality of some of the items I've seen here in Catalunya. What are the seasons for tortola (turtle dove), paloma (dove), becada (woodcock, becasse), estornino (starling??), pichon (pidgeon), cordoniz (quail) and ortolan. I know most of these can be found farm raised but as I recall, some of the ones I've seen had shot or shot holes in them (and needless to say its a pain plucking there feathers especially the wild ducks). Also, are such items as becada and surely not ortolan even legal at all to possess here? Also, what I was recently told was that the hunting season officially doesn't start til Oct. What are some of the game/birds that have been banned? What are being highly protected? And what can one readily hunt?
  10. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    This is my first time posting on the Italian board so I would like to briefly introduce myself. I am a cook who is investigating the great cuisines of the world. Born and raised a Southern Californian, and having worked for Wolfgang Puck at Chinois and Spago, I have now been in Europe for over three years; over two years at L'Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux de Provence, France and now almost a year at Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, Spain. Being emersed in the Mediterranean climate for so long, I search to round off my experiences now in Italy. Piedmont would be my first choice and I have a connection at Don Allfonso near Naples, but I am always up for suggestions. My only critieria is that the cuisine must lean more towards the traditional than the innovative, but have a healthy regard for both. As explained I am a cook, i.e. I make peanuts for a living and would like to take the meager savings from my labors and travel/look for work in Italy. I will most likely be flying into Rome early part of Sept then taking the train down to Don Alfonso near Naples, in all for about 7-10 days. Where should I look? I will definitely be dining in Don Alfonso but need suggestions for a couple more. Again anywhere easily accesible by train from Rome to Naples, large enough to have a need for cooks and representative of the region. Afterwards, I will be flying to Turin/Torino in Late October for the White Truffle Festival in Alba but do not know the best ways to take advantage of the event, nor do I actually know the dates of the event--meaning looking for inexpensive accomodations, tours/guides, transportation etc.. Simon
  11. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Divina- do you know how much entrance is with and without membership?
  12. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Divina- do you know how much entrance is with and without membership?
  13. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    OK to narrow down the recommendations list near Naples, I will be staying in Sorrento for two nights, as of for where I don't know. My budget is short, but since good pizza is cheap I could manage to spend one more meal of 50 euros inc wine. My budget is short also in part because I will be dining at a three star at Parkheuval in Eindhoven, Holland--as well. So any 12 euro or less meals or options will be appreciated as well. Thanks. Dosconz- the Agriturisom Saliani looks very interesting because for full board its 60 euros/day. How much are the rooms and how far from Don Alfonso is it? There web site is kind of vague so any further comments you have on it would be appreciated.
  14. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Update--Will be flying into Verona on the 7th and need to get to Del Pescatore. Does anyone know the best way to do this. I might be the only one on egullet willing to take a bus to a three star. Will probably be taking lunch there on the 8th and then taking the Eurostar from Verona to Naples. Then on to Don Alfonso, where a fellow cook had worked (he filled me in on how to get there by public transport) and a couple of side excursions (Capri and Pompei) then up to Rome to fly home around the 15th. Since I will be dropping half my budget on these two aforementioned restaurants, any recommendations on less expensive restaurants would be appreciated.
  15. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Ore--Congrats on the big move. Keep us posted on your findings and experiences. How, btw, did you land your job? And where in So Cal did you work? How long are you staying for? Maybe when I make it down to Campania, I'll stop by. Tanabutler-- Sorry, but not familiar with Senor Rancho Gordo, although if he is a fellow egulleteer, that makes him extended family to me. Most likely will be at the Slow Foods event in Torino for the entire time. Depends on what lands on my doorstep. Albistion--I spoke with my fellow cook, Gianni (my Don Alfonso connection) and he informed me that Santi Santamaria is very close to the Santini's. I am told it is the place for learning pastas and great seafood. Very small kitchen however. Anyhow, Santi has been away for quite some time now and will be in Galicia for two more weeks, but when he gets back, I will definately ask for his assistance. I hear only great things about the place, apart from the fact that there isn't much to do outside of work. Still seeking any information on the white truffle festival as most of the tourists sites are quite vague.
  16. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Divina--yes I've heard so much about Slow Foods and would love to go. I looked up the event on their site and it looks well organized and informative. My only worry is that the 60 euro membership plus the event cost might make it too expensive. Will have to investigate more. Hathor-- I am in no doubt that your son had a food epiphany, I sure did. Love the cuiisine almost as much as the area. Btw, what is "beta"? Albiston-- I would love more than anything to work in Dal Pescatore. My roommate, the asistant sommelier at Can Fabes, and his girlfriend ate there last summer and raved about it. Not only was the food divine but the winelist was spectacular as well. I will try to send my resume there but need to first get it translated into Italian. Unfortunately, I will not be able to share a slice of Napolitan pizza with you unless you will be in the area btwn the 8th-12th of Sept.
  17. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooks Tour Continues

    Albiston--thanks for the reply. Since both restaurants are around the same area--or should I say on the same peninsula, I should be able to go to all three. Indeed, I've heard wonderful things about Napolitan food--from an Italian coworker nonetheless. He has just come back from vacation so I should be able to get the ball rolling through him with Don Alfonso, but again I was looking for a more solid footing in traditional fare. Would you recommend a different region altogether? My goal in life is to be able to take my acquired experience to supplement my abilities to cook "California cuisine." I've heard that Piedmonte and Lombardi tend to be more rich than the cooking of the south, which is not to say that it could not be incorporated into a Californian's chefs repetoire. Also of interest, but just through vague notions and recommendation is Tuscany. Also, any news on the white truffle festival in Alba?
  18. Simon Sunwoo

    Best of both worlds

    Awesome, I will definately make Galicia a tour stop, probably in the fall or early winter. Thanks a bundle Victor and enjoy your time in Cantabria. And if its not too inconvenient, please keep posting on all your findings.
  19. Simon Sunwoo

    Best of both worlds

    Victor You scared me off the board for a while but now I have some idea of what Catalan cuisine is all about and have regained the courage to write again Plus I just got an ADSL line and a weeks vacation. With some of your discussions about the Madrid seafood connection, i.e. Combarro, O'Pazo and Casa de Troya, and now your vacation to Galicia, to which btw Santi will be going on the 8th, I am curious to learn about some of the delicacies Galicia has to offer. Some must be very seasonal and at their peak now while others not. For example, last fall, I remember serving and for that matter seeing percebes for the first time. Also around that time we were serving a canaloni de navajas which were still moving on the plate when served. It seems most of the most spectacular mariscos came in and around that time, like the incredible ostras and almejas (with bright red tips). Now, we are just serving some rather mundane mariscos like mussels. Obviously, not all our seafood comes from Galicia, in fact I know little about where our seafood invariably comes from. So without taking too much time from your vacation, what are you finding and what are you missing because of the season? And are most of the mariscos farmed or can locals still scavenge for themselves. This might seem to be a stupid question, but are all the shellfish indigenous to the area? I heard that a some time back in Brittany, the oysters died off and they transplanted a Japanese species in their place. Thoroughly fascinated by this post,
  20. Simon Sunwoo

    El Raco de Can Fabes

    Sumac, I do not have the answer to your questions. As for my role in the kitchen, I'm just a cook whos cooking, or as I call it now, doing the dance. As for Santi, he is an omnipresent figure in our kitchen, even when he is physically absent. With that said, he does have a knack for lighting a fire under your *ss that no other person in the restaurant has. As for eating in the fall and winter during the hunting season- that includes mushroom hunting, I might have a particular bias. It is obviously a cooks bias, with all the plucking of wild ducks, wood cock, partridge, etc., picking though and cleaning of local Montseny mushrooms and my personal pergatory--leek puree, I wasn't so sad to see spring arrive; but then spring has its shucking of peas and fava beans to contend with (not gonna waste my time thinking about the wild asparagus preperation). Now with summer upon us, the constant battle to keep things refrigerated makes every season a season to do the dance I suppose--so what was my point? Oh yeah, game--the preperation involved--plucking, skinning, butchering, hanging--no that wasn't it--my point is that impeccable produce means not waiting for someone else to manipulate it; not letting it wait in storage or on a delivery truck; not cutting corners and buying in bulk--it means having a guy pull up in the afternoon just before the sunsets and pulling the days catch out of his trunk, or the constant trafficking of wild mushrooms from... I want to call them Catalan Hillbillies. Yes, Santi might not be as available as before, but there is a local economy built around Can Fabes and with or without him, the produce still comes from that Jed Clampett (sp?) from Campins. If I may...but Simon there is the produce and then what one does with the produce before it arrives on a plate in front of me. Couldn't one think of a more....? This is definately not my place to say. All I can do for the moment is imagine what I would do and follow orders (with my interpretations of them, of course). Last word, then someone kick me off of this soapbox. Santi (I hope I'm not being to familiar) just celebrated his 10th anniversary with three Michelin stars, as some of you must know. The normal kitchen staff was now required to do the normal daily mis en place (prep work) along with prep for the anniversary banquet for almost 600. Quite an ordeal and one I will always remember for being in the spirit of Can Fabes--great produce, great execution. Simon
  21. Simon Sunwoo

    El Raco de Can Fabes

    Sumac, the reason the menu has seemed to change is due to the fact that Can Fabes has a new chef, Javier Torres. I hadn't worked for the previous chef but I can state that presently at Can Fabes, we are allowing the great produce to stand out with as little manipulation to the main ingredient as possible. It seems very straight forward and having worked in some fusion and 'inventive' kitchens in the past, I thoroughly enjoy this sensible approach. That is not to say that it is simpler because sometimes to reach this 'straightforward' cuisine, it takes enormous amounts of preperation and technique. BCNChef, I hope you enjoy your meal, but if you are eating on Sunday, I will have the day off. Any room for one more at El Bulli ? Keep me in mind.
  22. Simon Sunwoo

    Marseille

    Just a note--has anyone been to Chez Etienne for reportedly the best pizza in a pizza crazy town. For a quintisessential Marseillan experience, I highly recommend going. Off the beaten track a bit but well worth the hunt. Obviously not haute gastro--they don't even have a written menu or really fixed pricing from what I understand-- but they have some good eats with "classic" Marseillan style service. I made three side trips down from Les Baux de Provence to order the pizza avec mozza et anchois, des supions et du viande coupled with the house rose and finished off with a modest dessert and would go again--quite a step down, in terms of critical acclaim, from the two star cuisine I was cooking, but that is just the food and atmosphere I crave at the end of the week--no pretense.
  23. Simon Sunwoo

    El Bulli

    Louisa, Congrats. Looks as though we will be neighbors in the upcoming year. Definately keep us posted. Simon
  24. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooking Cataluna / Catalana

    I don´t know if I should be posting this here or on vserna post, Madrid Fusion, but I spoke with Chef Santamaria about the chance of attending this most intriguing conference/exposition, and he told me that we will be making arrangements to go. I don´t know why he is not headlining the conference himself, or how this will materialize but I am highly looking forward to going to it. Also, I mentioned you, V Serna, to Santi to which he lighted up and told me what a good friend you were but that when you usually cross paths its not recently been in Sant Celloni but in Madrid. He asked me how I knew you but I didn´t have the nerve to tell him that I was scolded by you on an internet food forum for being an incompetent Spanish cook (just having some tongue in cheek fun). By the way, my experiences so far in Spain has revealed to me at least one of the idiosyncracies of the cuisine here--the fact that some many of the flavors intermingle, interrelate in more penetrating manner. Yes we all talk about the slow cooking process, but never have I managed to eat so many dishes which combine so many different types of slow cooking in one dish (of course I consider the preservation of things in salt a type of slow cooking). The depths of flavors acheived in this manner have rearranged the manner in which I look at cooking and how I cook. It takes a lot more preparation and forsight as a cook because of the length of the times involved. That is not to discount all the fresh ingredients available as well. I am not saying that the Spanish have a monopoly on slow cooking, but I feel that it seems to be convey the spirit of their culture more than anywhere else I have lived.
  25. Simon Sunwoo

    Cooking Cataluna / Catalana

    Sorry vserna, I think it is to my discredit that I didn´t do more recon into Catalan and Spain before coming here. I certainly didn´t have the resources, the time nor the will to read through any Catalonian cookbooks, partly because I like to learn firsthand, partly because I didn´t have a computer thus no internet, partly because I didn´t have any money (26 month of first staging, then taking high pay cut because of my alien status do that to your wallet), partly because, in France, I was working some 10-14 hour days with only a day and a half off to spend thinking about things other than Catalan cooking. I was afterall only in Provence, trying to learn about Provencal cuisine. I know these are lousy excuses, but that is what I though this site was for. I certainly wasn´t prepared for buy yourself a cookbook and the token hyperlink. I know somehow we are getting off on the wrong foot. I would like to make amends and start my amassing of tons of information now. I don´t know why I am being attacked for holding my position, it was afterall not my decision. Chef Javier Torres offered it to me and I kept it by what I think was honest hard work. What we do is not brain surgery and I do not think it requires a degree in Spanish Culinary Tradion to accomplish. Cooking in the starred restaurants depends more on hard work, attentiveness, cleanliness and prep than in actual knowledge of culinary traditions. Yes, I did not know how to make a sofrito the first time, but now I can make that sofrito faster and more to the chefs liking than my commis (who has cooked and lived in Spain all his life), simply because I can peel onions and tomatos faster, dice faster, organize my mis en place better, which leaves more time to be attentive to its cooking times, my other commis and their mis en place. Case in point, I have worked with many Japanese staggaires in the past few years, and most have earned higher positions in the kitchen than their French counterparts. Is it because they know more about French cuisine? Perhaps, but I doubt it because they didn´t even know how to speak the language. They were good French cooks because they were attentive, cleaner, followed orders better and didn´t screw around in the kitchen as much as their French counterparts. I am not afterall the chef de cuisine, but chef de partie, which roughly translates as chef who follows the orders of the head chef and makes sure what all the underlings are doing is within the acceptability of the head chef. Sorry about the rant, but I am writing this between shifts and we have a rough night coming up, but I can say that I do respect all the posts I have read by vserna. I know you do your job well and I wish I could use you more as a culinary resource rather than defend myself on the inadequacy and deficiencies of my culinary knowledge. I guess I was being vague in my last post, and definately came across as inadequate, but let me assure you that I am a very capable cook or I wouldn´t be enjoying the daily handshake from Santi Santamaria. Oddly, I seem to be the only one of the cooks he greets in this manner, apart from the head chef. I just felt that if I were to start overstating my knowledge and such, I would not recieve the helpful responses as readily. Also, writing on my time off from a cyber cafe means that I have little time for revision and no time for rewriting. And every journalist knows writing is rewriting. OK, with that said, thank you vserna for the very informative hyperlinks and advice. Most of the cooks under me in Garde Manger went mushroom hunting in the Montseny. I did not go with them because I was pursuing my other great passion, Art, in Barcelona. When I returned they explained their interesting day and raved about one restaurant in the region whos name I can´t remember offhand. I´ll get back with that detail. As for llenaga negra, I´ve seen it in the restaurant, but have not have the opportunity to taste it. Will try the next time.
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