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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. I was wondering why I was slogging through the ad personam remarks and the circular logic about (socially constructed) "objectivity" in this thread. But if the argy-bargy succeeded in eliciting that last post, FG, it was all worth while. A lovely bit of writing. Congratulations to you, and to Steve P for provoking it.
  2. Jonathan Day

    Chicken Stock

    For the most part I use sel de Guerlande (coarse French sea salt) in solutions (cooked sauces, stocks, etc) and Maldon salt (fine English flakes) for sprinkling on things or uncooked sauces. I've been amazed by the low level of evaporation in oven-cooked stocks. I have done many of them completely uncovered, and only a small fraction of the stock evaporates, even over a long period. In some cases this is because a layer of fat floats to the surface; the simmer is so slow that the bubbles don't break through the fat. Perhaps this slows evaporation. The Aga does not have a convection fan, and I
  3. Jonathan Day

    Chicken Stock

    Not much has been said about where to get chickens for stock. I've had great success with so-called "boiling" chickens, from a Halal (Islamic equivalent of kosher) butcher. If you buy two chickens at a time and cut them up yourself, they cost £1 apiece -- this includes the heads and the feet. They are scrawny birds, mostly bones and feet and beaks, but they make great stock. I use a different cooking technique for stock: simmering it in the oven. This is because we have an "Aga" cooker which is always running and has two ovens that work well for stock-making. One, the "plate warming" oven deli
  4. In my experience the French are irritatingly inconsistent about this usage. Sometimes soupe aux poissons has chunks of fish in it, like a cotirade or a bourride, in case which it's stewlike. Sometimes it is the strained, smooth product (like the base of a bouillabaisse). Soupe de poissons is similarly bivalent. I am on the road at the moment, not able to check cookbooks, but I'll bet that you'd get different views from equally "authoritative" sources. I've been with French diners who have asked waiters, as a result of this ambiguity, what they would be getting with either a soupe aux poiss
  5. I find that many of these flavour memories (taste + smell) are very strongly linked to early experiences, in a way that is sometimes frighteningly visceral. For example: my grandmother's apartment in Chicago had a certain smell, a combination of old wood, furniture polish, and certain dishes she cooked very regularly. Every now and then I will encounter something like one of these smells -- most recently at a boardroom in a company in Italy. When this happened I almost had to wrench myself back, many years, to the present. But the experience was non-analytic: I didn't think "ah, this is a smel
  6. Today's newspaper describes a fair, "France of 1000 cheeses", now running in the Tuileries Gardens. "Yesterday hundreds of people queued ... to pay £1.25 ... for a plate of five cheeses from the region of their choice, bread, a glass of wine..." They are also offering advice on serving cheese, history of French cheeses, etc. Unfortunately it closes tomorrow...
  7. Water. (Oops...missed earlier post...moderators, please feel free to delete this one).
  8. When I lived in that area, many years ago, Chez Panisse only posted its menu for the current week. I had the impression that the menu was fixed once a week for the week ahead, giving them the flexibility to adapt to what suppliers could deliver or what they could grow themselves. Paul Bertolli, in Chez Panisse Cooking, says the same thing: once a week he had the task of fixing the menu for the week to come. And the website lists only the current week's menu. Robert, where did you get the impression that they planned 31 days ahead?
  9. In sauerkraut. We did this 5 years ago and guests are still talking about it. A long, slow braise. It was served alongside a traditionally roast goose; both geese had been brined for 24 hours. Both geese were good but the one in sauerkraut stood out. After it was cooked, all the meat came off the bones, all the fat was removed from the liquid, then meat and sauerkraut went back into the oven for an hour to re-heat, slowly. I looked for a long time to find really good, mild Alsatian or German sauerkraut prepared with wine. I was on the point of making it myself when a friend found a supply: Ma
  10. We tried the 7 course tasting menu at Chez Bruce on 20th September. All but one of the dishes were from the menu (which changes daily), and as far as I could tell most of these were served in the same sizes as the menu. The Middle White pork terrine was a small portion and was not on the menu that day. We had: Cream of cèpe soup with a poached egg A small terrine of Middle White pork, with an armagnac-flavoured plum embedded in it Grilled mackerel, potato salad, mustard beurre blanc and potato A goujonette of deep fried lemon sole with tartare sauce Filled and daube of beef with celeriac purée
  11. I have eaten at L'Oasis in La Napoule and wrote a comment about it back in May ... click here ... L'Oasis entry is at 17th May. I would summarise my view as "good but not great, and very expensive." It would have been more pleasant on a sunny day with the atrium opened up. The oyster with seawater granita was superb. The dinner we had at the Bastide St Antoine in Grasse (J. Chibois) was far better in every respect. I will unquestionably return there, but probably not to L'Oasis.
  12. My surprise at the article was less about the price than to see a bread piece on the front page of the Sunday newspaper. Either there wasn't enough dirt and scandal to fill the page, or people here are getting deeply interested in food. I think it's the latter. I sometimes buy half loaves of Poîlane levain bread at Borough Market -- there's a stand just outside Neal's Yard. They assure me that it has come from the bakery. It's never quite as fresh as what you get at the bakery itself, but it is good and it keeps a long time. It also slices more neatly than some levain breads I buy (e.g. at Le
  13. From this morning's Sunday Times: Waitrose are now selling Poîlane "sourdough" (levain bread) for £9.62. This received a front page headline: "Crumbs! It's the £10 loaf". To be sure, the loaf weighs 4 pounds, so the article's subsequent comparison with supermarket bread is a bit silly. "In a blind test last week nine out of 12 shoppers said they preferred the taste of a £1.45 loaf from Safeway to Poîlane's finest sourdough." A 75 year old retired marine engineer said, "They taste the same to me...I've no idea why people would pay £10 for a loaf. They must have too much money." On the one han
  14. Selection I can't see. It seems straight up to me, no dip in a "U." What's the theory behind a selection "U"? You are right. Good catch. If I really felt like arguing the point I would say that it depends on what you mean by selection. If it means "ability to get all sorts of products, whether or not out of season, in one place" then we have clearly travelled straight up the curve, no "U" involved. If it means "availability of interesting varieties, high quality local products, differentiated products as you travelled across the country" then as other posters have observed the standardised an
  15. I think that quality and selection -- in some countries at least -- have travelled a "U" shaped curve. Having grown up in the US in the 1960s my sense is that I started toward the bottom of the "U", so things have improved greatly since then. For the most part the eating back then was grim. Meat came from the local "Kroger's" or "National" and was mostly frozen. Fruit and vegetables were wrapped in plastic. Olive oil, if you could find it, came in tiny bottles ("Pompeiian", if I recall the brand) and was usually rancid. Garlic was sometimes available, but most people used "garlic salt". There
  16. There is a yakitori-ya in Roppongi called Ganchan (6-8-23 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 03-3478-0092). I remember it as rather small and smoky from the wood fire where they cooked the skewered foods, but very good, both in the range of skewers offered and in their quality. Caveat: I have not been to this place in several years.
  17. It does happen here, but as in many areas of life in Britain you have to break the ice in the appropriate manner. Many customers here would be surprised and a bit upset if a waiter, unsolicited, started discussing the food and wine with them, just as they would if a party at the next table tried to engage them in conversation. I know people who have expressed concern that a knowledgeable sommelier tried to discuss their wine choices with them. To me this the height of silliness -- there is so much to learn from a sommelier who knows his wines and is prepared to share some of that knowledge. Bu
  18. A former professor of mine, David Tracy, put it better and more clearly than I can. The following is from his book, The Analogical Imagination (Crossroad: New York, 1981). I have adapted it very lightly because the original is talking about philosophical theology. But I think it applies to what we are talking about here. Serious, I know, and laden with phrases like "heteronomous privatization", but wise words nonetheless. The "disciplined and responsive conversation" with the great culinary traditions is the one worth seeking -- whether you call it "objective" or "intersubjective". (Legal dep
  19. Objective simply means “uninfluenced by emotion, surmise or personal prejudice” or a “material object as distinguished from a mental concept, idea or belief” (Webster). It is a set of standards that prevail only at certain time, and it is a perfectly good term to use for evaluating food. How would one distinguish the quality of a musical performance for instance? One would know that a composer marked the tempo of a specific musical piece to be Allegro (fast). It is an objective standard identified by a composer/professional. Had the musician performed the selected musical piece in a diffe
  20. Of course this is an empirical question. My own assertion is that we would find that the best chefs start with passion and pick up finances as a means to an end. I would further assert that is almost impossible to produce not just good food (i.e. cooked to a precise recipe) but a good total experience if the primary goal is money. If profit is the main goal, in any event, you will go for economies of scale, mass production, replicability. How many high-end restaurants in hotel chains (Hyatt, etc.) are that good? I know that there are some chain hotel restaurants that manage to do good work, bu
  21. This discussion has been sufficiently interesting and civilised that I am going to take the risk of introducing an economic theme. I would not be prepared to "put myself in the hands of a chef" if I believed that she had no other motive than profit in opening the restaurant. This goes back to a theme I introduced in a post some time ago, and one that John Whiting has brought up in a different way. The great restaurants, the ones where I would happily turn the choices over to the chef, are ones that started from a concept or an idea, and then figured out how to make the economics work. Perhaps
  22. Suvir, I've evolved the following method. This is for a 950 watt microwave, so it would have to be re-tested for a less (or more) powerful unit. I believe Julie Sahni specifies a longer cooking time than this. I put 2 cups of basmati rice, unrinsed, and 3 of water into a large glass bowl. This gets microwaved, uncovered, at full power for 9 minutes. Then a glass cover (a pie plate) is slipped on top and it continues at full power for another 3 minutes. Then it comes out of the oven, still covered, and rests for 6 minutes. It is then ready to serve. Could not be easier and the quality of the pr
  23. All I could conclude was that I couldn't understand it. I started with the presumption that it had merit within a particular cultural frame, since my friend was deeply acquainted with the genre. I was unable to formulate a judgement either way. I agree with this and will remember this pithy and useful phrase. I think you are talking about the ability to stand outside oneself, to treat one's emotions as nothing more than another datum. In this sense a judgement can be somewhat "objective", i.e. depending on more than my immediate perceptions. Another judge could come to a different point of v
  24. There are at least three strands to this debate. The first is about cultural relativities. I was once taken to a performance of Chinese opera by a friend who knew I loved opera and was a connoisseur of the Chinese variety. The troupe was famous. To me it sounded a bit better than cats making love on a garden wall, but not by much. I could not understand the language or the music. Perhaps I could have learnt it after many years of study. But I won't say it was "worse" or "better" than a great performance of Rheingold. Just different, though in a way I could not appreciate. The second is that e
  25. Cabrales, if I recall correctly sliced truffles appeared only in the quail dish. The paté had bits of truffle, and there were irregular pieces of truffle in the consommé. I believe the turbot had been dosed with truffle oil, something that Petrus seems to use a lot. Since this was a business dinner I did not discuss the food with the waiter, something I might well have done otherwise. The texture of the sliced truffle was not great -- nor was the slicing that thin -- but I attributed this to the time of year. It is indeed possible that it had been frozen or otherwise preserved. The perfume was
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