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Everything posted by Culinista

  1. According to Carla Capalbo's "Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania," Ernesto, who used to work at di Matteo, opened his own place down the street in 2000 and named it "Del Presidente" in honor of Clinton. Clinton visited di Matteo in 1994 and ate 2 American-style sausage pizzas. I'm sure he was a little disappointed not to get the typical Neapolitan pizza. Mr. Creosote was crestfallen when he went to his first banquet in China and they decided to make egg rolls and sweet'n'sour pork in his honor. I've had Ernesto's pizza, and if I were Clinton, I'd go back...
  2. Good news! Looks like our travel dates are for a little later in August, starting from the 20th and going to about the 10th of Sept. Should help beat the crowds and heat somewhat. OK, starting to compile a list of Tokyo unagi. So far, I have Juubako and Obana. I'm looking for cooking classes, especially anything that will improve my knife skills and rice cooking. Mr. Creosote threw out the idea of climbing Fujisan, despite recent traumas on Kilimanjaro If we are going to be carrying hiking gear, I figure we might do some more walking in central Chubu. I'm now looking into walking through parts of the Kiso valley, maybe putting Takayama/Gokayama/Shirakawa-go on the itinerary. What I'd love to do is find someone who can teach us about foraging mountain vegetables and sansai cuisine. I'm also daydreaming about a rural mountain onsen ryokan with spectacular views and an outside bath. Anybody know if it is advisable to rent a car to get around the Noto peninsula and the countryside around Takayama? Public transport does not look great around there. We live in the UK and Mr. C is a fearless right-hand-side driver, but I can't navigate even in English and have no sense of direction. Sizzleteeth recommended what looks like an awesome culinary tour company called Intrepid that arranged the trip in the thread Hiroyuki mentioned. Man, it would be nice to have someone taking care of all these logistics, but I think we need a bit more room to roam.
  3. They might resemble chickpeas if they were really small and still closed. We left the small ones and harvested only the open ones.
  4. Aha, I knew it!! These must be also the mushrooms knowns as "prugnole" around Bologna. I had zizas in the Basque country and prugnole 3 weeks apart this spring, and I wondered if they were the same. They have a lovely, haunting aroma. I can't believe I've never had them before. Giorgio, one of the waiters at da Amerigo in Savigno, took us hunting for them in the woods. They grow in a fairy ring. We've had them raw on toast, as a garnish like shaved truffle, and scrambled in eggs. Yummy.
  5. You are right about technology. Following that logic, we should rejoice at sous vide and the cloning. I recently heard serious people seriously discussing the imminent prospect of making a Star Trek-like food replicator that would reproduce any gastronomic experience in outer space. Shalmanese, you did better at Alinea than Spamalot.
  6. Are you factoring the costs of traveling to those places? Not to mention the dining experience you have to have in order to understand those restaurants and appreciate what you are paying for? I can't tell you how much it pains me to see people choking on the bill too much to appreciate the food. No one can learn anything from one meal or one bottle of great wine. They have to be able to pay for a long apprenticeship. Everybody can afford to eat well, except the poorest of the poor. Even when we were on welfare, we had a garden and hunted crabs and ate better than most kids eat now. But let me respectfully suggest that you go out and meet more common people.
  7. I think I was misunderstood. Culture is not a right, it is always a privilege. And up until very recently, high culture has always been the exclusive provenance of the rich. That's the way the world is. But the rich have been getting generous over the last few hundred years. All those museums and concert halls out there are mostly the product of philanthropy by rich individuals and a public decision that culture is beneficial to civic life. People now have gotten so used to this generosity that they have come to believe that art and music should not be just for the rich, but belong to everyone. Professional classical music would have died long ago if it were a business like a restaurant. My question is, why are gastronomic arts considered the same as "frivolous" luxury goods and not a valuable cultural experience like a live symphony performance? Nobody is talking about giving Apicius duck to the masses, but people regularly give their Picassos. So maybe food is one of the lesser material arts. But if you enjoy Aston Martins, you can see them in car museums, although it is definitely not the same as driving one. There's a Patek museum, and fashion museums as well. Maybe Vegas and the Epcot haute cuisine pavilion (yes, I have been to both) serve a kind of culinary museum function in the sense that they are making high-end cuisine available to a broader audience. But since they are inevitably bad and still extremely expensive facsimiles, they are even more severely limited than other cultural museums. When I was growing up, we couldn't afford restaurants, just Hardee's on special occasions. I had never heard of a three-star restaurant in the backwater of Savannah, Georgia, let alone think of going to one. TGI Friday's was my first real restaurant, when I was 18. I'd like to think some kid like me in Vegas is getting a taste of what truly great food is like, even if it is just seeing the famous international names on the Strip. It's a start. I never said anything about entitlements, but I know how it feels to be shut out by people who say the good life is only for those who can afford it. Maybe I should think of starting a food education scholarship. A rich guy gave me a scholarship, and it made all the difference.
  8. Thanks, Robyn. I'm beginning to wonder if I should put Osaka off til winter, when fugu is in season. What about Kanazawa and Kaga-ryori? Is this also best in winter? I've heard good things about Asadaya ryokan, Ootomoro, and Kotobukiya. Will it be impossible during Obon? If we go up there, I'd like to visit the Noto peninsula and Wajima. Where should I go for a wild unagi restaurant? I just saw "Spirited Away" ("Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"). In the extras, Miyazaki asks his young animators if any of them have seen an unagi being gutted in an unagi-ya, and they all shake their heads. He throws up his hands and declares Japanese culture doomed. It just made me hungry for fantastic unagi
  9. Joan Roca has been cooking for over 20 years--does he count as "new"?
  10. So it was Tom Aikens last night, and more food for thought. There were 3 of us, all from non-privileged backgrounds, including an Iowa farmboy who made good and is now one of the world's most successful and best-fed executives. He's a perfect example of a natural palate that has used new wealth to hone itself on the best education money and passion can buy. The food was of its usual erratic quality, with some original ideas buried under wildly baroque extravagance bordering on unstable gastronomic thinking. Definitely not one of the world's top meals to a gastronaut, only acceptable. It's Mr. Creosote's personal favorite in London, but Mr. R and I freely groused anyway, mollified only by some interesting wines. This is what gourmets do. Then I looked around and saw mainly expensive suits and realized that this meal probably would represent somebody's special meal of a lifetime, if they could only afford it. We were discussing a Robert Parker charity event, and I jokingly asked if it was to support impoverished oenophiles. Then it occurred to me that gastronomy, almost alone of the arts, is for some reason not considered to be worthy of public support for wide access. Haute cuisine (I'm not talking about popular cuisine, of course) is almost impossible to mass-distribute in economical scale, like a CD or a museum ticket. Chefs have very heavy commercial restraints that limit what they can do, and there are no MacArthur grants and such. Great paintings and classical music are made accessible to anyone interested, but great food is not. Why? In the meantime, maybe the best thing for some folks to do is go to Vegas and hope to hit the jackpot so they can eat.
  11. Thanks for the ideas. Yeah, I remember traveling in August during my student days. I had spent the summer in broiling Tokyo, then we traveled by train as far as Nagasaki. We stopped somewhere on the beach in Kyushu and I remember a wonderful iced somen with little cherry tomatoes bobbing in it If I remember correctly, we stopped in Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Kobe, Kyoto, and Nagoya--all stifling. That was 15 years ago, but right now it is freezing and raining daily in London, so maybe that is clouding my judgment My uncle has kindly offered me the use of his house in Kobe, but we'd only do that if it's a good base for eating. Robyn, what did you have in Osaka? And what are the Japan Alps like in summer?
  12. I had this thread very much in mind last night as we slogged our way through the £90 omakase menu at Nobu London last night while discussing the luxury goods market. Goes to prove that even overpriced, mediocre food is still food for thought. These were the thoughts, in random order: 1. Consistency is much harder to achieve than people realize. Ducasse was reviled for creating an empire of three-stars, but he is one of the only chefs that I know of that has (re)created anything of culinary value in this format. Sous vide is not the magic bullet--you need to be able to recreate a tight organization that can control quality and maintain standards. I know Matsuhisa can cook, because we had a very good meal once when he was in New York. Clearly he has not found a good organization in London, because the ingredients were similar and the recipes were the same. The whole staff felt slack, from the sushi chefs sipping tea and snacking while they worked, to the uninformed staff who misidentified ingredients, to the chef de cuisine who allowed dessicated clams and gummy noodles to go out to the dining room. The dining room itself looked and felt like a Wagamama, not like the more sophisticated decor of NY. Only the menu and the prices looked the same. 2. Nobu London was an awful letdown after Nobu NY, yet it was full of people. Who were they? Probably the usual tourists looking for a fancier McDonalds or the johnny-come-latelies that try to keep up with the trendsetters. These are the same people who buy Rolexes or BMWs or Louis Vuitton for nothing more than brand cachet. They seemed to be enjoying their meal, however. As annoyed as I get that Matsuhisa or Robuchon or anyone else who is capable of better would milk their hard-earned reputation by selling low-end garbage at designer prices, it's hard to fault them for providing something that people obviously want and like. If they want to spend their money there rather than at McDonald's, at least they're eating slightly better food. Let the buyer beware, a sucker is born every minute...the old capitalist saws still apply. 3. Very few people are truly discriminating when it comes to quality. Most couldn't tell if the chef was in the kitchen or not, or which wine is the Romanee-Conti, but a few could. The luxury market segments itself into the small knowledgeable vanguard, the celeb types that popularize a brand image, and the followers (see no 2). Few people, if presented with brands they've never heard of, can figure out on their own how it ranks in quality. Most have to wait for their opinion of the brand to be communicated to them. As a brand, restaurants are even harder, because unlike cars or handbags or even music or art, it is far more difficult to replicate food exactly (see no.1), even in the same restaurant on the same night. 4. The role of the food critic is more powerful than almost any other type of priesthood because of no.3. But once a chef's reputation is made, he can then set up his empire because of no. 2. He has become a brand in a world ruled by brand thinking. It makes the complexities of our choices less overwhelming. 5. Not all luxury consumers are idiots or filthy rich. Look at the modest-income eG types offering their piggy banks on the altars of haute cuisine. Maybe there were some there last night that knew how to order better. And just as obviously, not all rich people have taste, but they can afford to buy an education. 6. We live in a time of class war. Certain people will practice reverse snobbism against luxury brands that develop too much mass appeal. These brands might have not changed in any value except snob value. I know of lots of self-styled gourmets who sniff at going to Ducasse because he is a "chain," but a Ducasse clone often manages to outcook 95% of independent chefs in their own locally-sourced kitchens. Ducasse is the Louis Vuitton of the food world in more ways than one. Some reactionary people write off luxury items altogether as overpriced foolery in a gesture of anti-aristocrat class hostility. Some insecure snobs fail to recognize quality in inexpensive things, mistaking them as being "cheap." Refer back to no. 3. The upshot is, I think this replication is a trend with little end in sight, especially since food and bling are the two great modern obsessions. However, is it good or bad? eG can take comfort that it is in some way self-limiting. The minority cognoscienti, if they live in town, can play a role in keeping a chef honest, and as the general public learns more about food, they can demand better as well. I was raised in the food awakening of the US, and eventually London Nobu diners will become more demanding, and maybe NY diners will travel more to Sydney or Tokyo and get more demanding still. Learning takes time, and chefs are only as bad as the public allows them to be. Never in a million years will you have a 100% discriminating dining public, but they can learn. I don't think it's right to say that it is "necessary" for restaurants to transmogrify--clearly many do not and are fine. There is just a lot of economic incentive to do so. Just as there is tremendous incentive for a great chef to raise prices. They don't HAVE to, but the point is, they CAN. There is a lot to detest about the inexorability of market forces, but controlled economies were never notorious for their great food either. In fact, maybe everyone will be eating better for it. Vegas is the repository of pop culture extremes, and it's only to be expected that restaurants are parodying themselves there and everywhere. Is it bad? I don't know. I had a roommate from Vegas, and she's probably glad that now there at least a few decent places to eat in the desert. It's like Starbucks. Starbucks is the evil empire and all that, the coffee is bad and overpriced, but it's better than the previous endless wasteland of Nescafe and Maxwell House. It's not like Starbucks squeezed out the good independent baristas, because there weren't any at the time in the US. It is of course very hard for a small independent to enter the market, but then, it always has been. Ironically, the Starbucks backlash might now indeed help smaller, slightly better places like Peets gain a foothold. Who knows? Maybe someday there might be really good coffee in the US and the UK. I found a new single-estate Venezuelan cafe (Coupa Cafe) on Ramona Street in Palo Alto, CA that gives me hope. It would never have existed without Starbucks, which is 1 block away. As for the travel issue, it's like saying what's the point of traveling when you can go to Epcot? If you can't tell the difference, maybe it makes more economic sense to go to Epcot. People complain that one city is just like another, but they don't know how to travel, or they aren't willing to put in the research. I travel all the time to places full of cookie-cutter chains, and I almost always find terrific, unique places to eat. In fact, some of the best restaurants I know are in suburban strip malls. Why does it matter to me that the chains are going higher end?
  13. So it looks like we are leaning toward another trip to Japan this August, and we're in the fun stage of looking at maps and drooling over the possibilities for a 20-day trip. Last Feb., we focused on winter nabemono and kaiseki, spending time in Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Hiroshima/Miyajima. Highlights of the last trip were Hiragiiya, Daichi, Hyotei, Hiroshima okonomiyaki and oyster cuisine. We liked Kozue as well in Tokyo. So, where to go this time, and what to eat? We've never been to the western coast or northern Japan, so that is one possibility to beat the heat and crowds. We were also thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji or staying on Koya-san. We have pin marks in Amanohashidate and Matsushima, Fukuoka, Wajima, and Sendai. Osaka is also an idea, as we have never spent significant time there. We can easily get off the beaten track, and we'll go anywhere for great food! What would be the best region for late summer eating? We'll definitely spend time in Tokyo on business, so any new recs there are welcome. Our goals this time would be to find a top-notch wild unagi restaurant, soba, and better tonkatsu than Maisen. We are also looking for outstanding itamae-style restaurants and sushi. Any yummy-sounding ideas?
  14. Her lead story gives a 1671 recipe for a candied rose cake.
  15. So nobody has made it through Rabelais yet, huh? John, I thought for sure you'd have the page number for me with the cassoulet reference! We just polished off the last freezer cassoulet. Beautiful beans and meaty flavor, but the lamb was dry. Will switch butchers in the future. Time to start collecting duck legs for more.
  16. Does it matter? The tourists can have it, as far as I'm concerned. They can take Tour d'Argent while they're at it. No wait...they already have.
  17. Well whoever put together the Arbutus wine list together deserves a lot of credit for putting together a list that , on last nights form, makes it hard to choose bad (or even uninteresting) wine. gethin ← We must be geniuses or idiots, because we disliked the Albarin~o (Sen~orio de Cruces 2004). We were a group of 5, and I'd say the misses were far more frequent than the hits. The smoked eel was one of the highlights. Best were the pig's face and pieds et paquets. Misses included the worst beef rib "roast" I have ever had (done sous vide, supposedly finished on the plancha, but not enough), which made eating bloody sponge seem more attractive. The meat was absolutely tasteless. The fact that 2 people were forced to try this dish made it worse, and I hope nobody thinks this is a great gourmet value. The lamb looked almost identical to the beef, but had some flavor. Most of the problems were fundamental conceptual ones, plus uneven execution. I think the overcooked asparagus dish was a fanciful take on asperges a la flamande, which is white asparagus in an egg sauce. The green asparagus was overcooked and vile. The souffled potatoes were inedibly salty, even for my salt-crazed husband.
  18. I used to cure my version of Toulouse sausage from the rafters of the garage. It adds a certain je ne sais quoi
  19. I think the accordion gave the wrong impression. I've been several times, and this place is solid quality.I'd try it again, on the musician's night off. Almost all restaurants in old Tallinn inevitably suffer from made-for-tourists romanticized "traditional cuisine." Some are better done, others worse. This is one of the better ones. Gloria, on the other hand, felt like eating in somebody's grandmother's boudoir. Horrible Saturday lunch there. My favorite treat from Tallinn are the old soviet-era toy cars for my nephew's Hot Wheels collection. The secondhand market is a great source, and not at all meant for tourists. There are the usual Lenin watches and mugs as well, but a lot of the military stuff is fake. Estonians are often embarrased by Vana Tallinn. It's too syrupy for me, but next time I'll try it in cream.
  20. But I've already hijacked this thread once to discuss Finland! I LOVED semla, those Easter cream puffs I sneaked some in the pastry shop at the entrance of the Sture gallery, before having a nice fish lunch at Sturehoff. Swedish belon oysters were an interesting novelty. Fried sardines were nicely done, as was the fish soup. Bon LLoc was really good (if blindingly expensive!) even for the fussy standards of my Spanish-Venezuelan husband. Maybe one of the best meals we've had in Scandinavia. Too bad it's not Scandinavian food. Fred 12 was OK but boring for lunch, but their dinner menu looked far more interesting. The yellow plastic on the windows made judging the color of wine rather tricky in the daytime. They also served foods far out of season, like crayfish and cloudberries in April. I suppose that's inevitable when the growing season is so short, but still. Isn't there some way to work around this? Paul and Norbert was old school, but we had a very good time there--very quiet, intimate, calm. Everything about it tends to the classics, including the wine list, but in a good way. They do have a little trick of dipping the sweetbreads into a Worcestershire bath before cooking and enhancing even peas with demi-glace, for that sneaky little umami boost. Since they do it in trace amounts, the results are good, but cooking purists might turn up their noses.The cured lamb tongue was awesome, and the capercaille (the reason we went) extremely good. Not quite as good as becada, but right up there. Ulla Winblad was almost campy, but it was a nice place to spend Sunday afternoon over a plate of unreformed Swedish meatballs. I imagine it's a tourist spot in summer, but then it was full of families celebrating birthdays, etc.
  21. Yikes, the grammar police and the punsters in a joint operation!
  22. I'd second Laduree on the Rue Royale, although the one on the Champs-Elysees seems to be the real power breakfast spot.
  23. Mm, yummy. I think the baby squid on the Med. coast would still give you far superior results than the same dish with frozen calamari rings, which is the typical product in places I've lived recently.
  24. I got it explained to me... ← Now explain it to ME.
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