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Peter Green

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  1. People, keep posting! I have to do two days in KL on the 17th and 18th, and it's not my money, so I'm looking for good ideas. so far, the chinese kitchen at the Ritz has a good review, as does the Zhang Kitchen. Anyone else with good ideas?
  2. Day 2…which is when we review Day 1 Sarah Schafer Frisson, San Francisco Beringer Sparkling White Zinfandel, California Japanese Sea Bream Sashimi Thai Pickled Mango Salad, Tougarashi Sticky Rice, Yuzu & Galangal Vinaigrette Beringer Napa Valley, Chardonnay 2002 Mirin & Miso Glazed Alaskan Halibut Celery Root Puree, sautéed beech Mushrooms, Napa Cabbage, shiro dashi Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay, California 2004 Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras “p b & j” Toasted Brioche, house made spicy peanut butter, Pear 7 Black Pepper Compote Beringer Gamay Beaujolais, California 2003 Marjoram and Hazelnut Dusted Rack of Lamb Curry roasted baby vegetables, black olives,, Sweet tomato confit, kafir lime jus Beringer Clear Lake, Zinfandel 2001 White chocolate filled gingerbread cannelloni Fresh cherry Salad, brandied cherry sauce, cilantro gastrique Macallan Single Malt 12 year old My first, and very pleasant surprise, after the initial trading of wai’s all around, was to find tha one of my friends from last year's WGF would be joining me. Thus my worst fear was put to rest, I wouldn’t have to eat alone. With the exception of buffets, I detest eating on my own. Food needs to be talked over, or perhaps its just having someone there to validate the experience (the parking lot approach to dining). I excuse buffets from this, as I’ve learned from past experience that if you have to get up and go to get more food as often as I do, you’re going to have a hard time sustaining good table conversation. Whatever, we’re here to talk about the food and wine. The Zinfandel that we opened with was identical to the one they’d started the Manzke dinner with last year. It’s classed as a white, but comes across much more as a sparkling rose. Given that I was slowly melting in my jacket and tie (this is Bangkok after all) I was highly appreciative of the nice flute that was placed in my hands. A little sweet, but still crisp enough to make me feel better. As always, we yacked about food, video games, and ghosts. M’s family is still transitioning out of residence living and into their own place, and the lack of proper cooking facilities has been driving them to distraction. The good side of this is they always eat out, so I’ve got a great reference guide there. The first course, the sea bream, was just there. It came across a little oily. I suspect the culprit was the sticky rice. It was a little too aggressively crisped, and rather than contrasting texture got in the way of everything else. The galangal in the vinaigrette went well with the fish itself, and so there was hope. As Sarah had worked with Tom C at Gramercy Tavern, I wonder if this vinaigrette came from her time there? The 2002 Napa Char that went with this was okay, but not sharp enough for the oiliness mentioned earlier. But, it was there in front of me, so I couldn’t neglect it. Now, they followed this with the Founder’s Estate 2004 which did a much better job of clearing the palate. Good, clean cut to the palate, clearing away the prior dish. The halibut, like the bream, was a mixed affair. On the one side, the meat of the fish came across lacking in character, which is a shame with halibut. But on the other side, the celery root puree tasted really good. It’s just that it would have benefited from more help from the fish itself. While I was consoling myself with the Founder’s Estate, they brought out the red, a Gamay Beaujolais 2003. M and J mentioned that it didn’t do much, but I recommended that they let it have a few minutes first. This was also an excuse to try and snag some more of the last Chardonnay which I’d grown extremely fond of …… The red was there for the next dish, the foie gras. This was a success. The combination of foie gras and peanut butter is really, really good, and raises images of a Reese’s style commercial “Hey, you got foie gras on my peanut butter! “ “No, you got peanut butter on my foie gras!” The bit of brioche under this gave just the right bit of crunch to make me happy. Meanwhile, the red had opened up like blossom, with a really nice nose and some beautiful tones in there. I parsed out bites of foie gras to go with my wine, and was generally content with my place in the universe. Then came the Clear Lake Zinfandel 2001. Like the Gamay, it just needed some time to find itself. But when it did, my votes still went with the Gamay. The lamb received mixed reviews. I liked the flavours, and thought that there was something there to be appreciated, but Sarah herself did say that she thinks it would have done better with a bit more time on the heat. The problem for the Bangkok crowd is that the Asians don’t care much for lamb, particularly because of its smell, and meat this rare isn’t going to sit well with their tastes. They offered coffees with the chocolate, but I opted for a return to the Gamay. I’m never much of one for desserts, so I won’t worry about comments. The wine was very nice. We absconded to the lobby for the whiskey. Martin Lawrence, who’s covering the event for Prestige was kind enough to join us, and Nicholas Schneller, the exec chef for the hotel stopped by for a bit. He was looking forward to the week, as the WGF has hit a nice pace where the chefs are all talking it up amongst each other abroad, so they hit the ground in a very good mood. Whiskey, jet lag, and good conversation took it’s toll, and I was out of the lobby and back upstairs by midnight, perhaps a near record for me. Day 2 Yoshii. This was good. When I approached the desk downstairs to check on the room for the cooking class, M was already there checking in, so we arranged to sit together again. We’ve always got more to talk about (in this case the need for a 2nd version of Jagged Alliance…..the Canadian company had hired the write out to some Russians but….I’m drifting again). Anyways, entering the room the whole crowd was there. CL and her brother, Ml, and a host of others. This terrifies me, as I’m horrible at remembering names, and I’m left to dangle and dance as I recognize people, but cant put a tag to them. Yoshii apologized in advance for his English, but he was perfectly competent in his handling of the language, coming across very well. Our problem was in the Japanese ingredients that didn’t have a clear correspondent in English, and nothing would help with that. Yoshii is part of the Sakura Investment Group, which does sound harshly corporate, but it means that there’s money for good restaurants. His primary spot is Yoshii’s on the Rocks in Sydney, and he’s opened up a second, less formal izakaya place – Wasabi. Along with Yoshii-san was Tetsuya (?) helping with the cooking, and Aaron, who did some translation, although this was more as commentary when the chef was concentrating upon something. The cooking. We started off with scallops carpaccio. The scallops were trimmed of any hard edges, then lightly seared and then halved, which is easy enough. Turnips were marinated in salt, pepper, vinegar, and soy. Most of the work, as expected went into the umeboshi dressing. This was started off from an obsessively chopped Japanese plum, and then worked up with bonito stock through a couple of boilings, drop everything into the mixer, and then tart it up with some vinegar, honey, soy, and white pepper. The magic’s in the finish. Lay down the scallops interleaved with the turnips in a nice long row, then bring the dressing down the ridgeline, and come back in with some good caviar and plant it. As a note, I love watching a good Japanese chef deftly positioning ingredients, chopsticks darting in the place something in just the right position. Really, this is little different than a good Western chef, fingers poised, putting the finishing touches on a dish, but it looks so much more intimidating the Japanese way. A few fresh herbs to top off, and some dollops of chive oil to spot the plate, and the first item was done. It was passed around for the obligatory oohs and aahs, photos were taken, and we prepared for the next dish. This was lamb. As with Sarah Schafer the night before, you have to be careful about this in a South East Asian setting. What we were doing was a yuzu miso lamb chop. This saw three very nice chops laid out salted, and set aside while we concentrated on the yuzu miso. Yoshii calls for white miso here as a proper match for lamb, pork, beef, or duck. Now, if you have a haunch of venison, or better yet some bear, you should move over to red miso in order to work against the stronger flavours. In the pan with some sugar, mirin, and egg yolk, you’ve got about ten minutes of constant risotto-like stirring to keep you occupied. Take that away and let it cool. Then return and bring in the paste of koshoo (a citrusy pepper), chili, and oil. Mix in some mayonnaise, and put this aside for the moment. Then we braised a sharply squared stick of daikon with mirin and bonito stock, and prepared this for use as a boat to carry the mushrooms, bamboo shoot, carrot, and bits of herb (damn, it looked pretty). The chops now go on the fire, and pan roast in a bit of olive oil. Get them to a rare state, then pull them off the pan and put on the paste. Crumble some brioche, and position some almonds, and then put them in the oven at around 180 C to finish. While they’re in the oven, take the pan juices and reduce a soy shiitake sauce with some beef stock. Everything comes out, the chops go on the plate, the daikon takes up a manly position by their side, and the shiitakes and their sauce dollop around the edges. Then, for dessert, There was an issue. This worked in our favour. Yoshii had wanted to marinate fresh figs in red wine, and then tempura these, to go alongside of fig ice cream. But the day before the hotel’s supplier had advised them that there were no figs to be had. This was not a good thing. So, the heart of a good chef, you improvise. What we did instead was simplicity itself. We topped and bottomed an orange, cored it out, removed the pith from the orange pieces and cut them down to bite size chunks. The cap of the orange was put back down in the bottom to close the cup. Then the orange pieces got mixed up with sweet red beans and topped with a leaf of deep fried mint. Easy. My mouth watered when I heard what we’d missed, but this was a far more approachable dish to prep for my own kitchen when I get back. I’d love to have the fig dish at one of the meals (and I’ll do Yoshii for dinner on the 13th) but for my cooking classes I’d really prefer to come away with things I can do. With the class proper out of the way, we all started catching up on food stories. A major draw for me in coming to the WGF every year is the table conversation. The people coming here love food, and they love to talk about it. With a few years under my (expanding) belt here, I know enough people that it’s always a joy to catch up on what’s going on with food. We talked about bivalves and cockles, crabs and lobsters. Which of the ingredients we’d just covered could be bought at Fuji, and which at Isetan. We bemoaned the fate of our children when they had to go away to school and live in a world without caviar. So, how did the lunch go? They started us off with a nice Wolf Blass “Red Label” Semillion-Sauvignan Blanc from Rosemount’s 2005 Epicurean Series. This was very fruity, and very clean on the palate, and went well with the scallops when they came out. And the scallops looked and tasted just right. I might have preferred larger servings of caviar on top, but I’m a glutton. The turnip gave a good flavour with some sweetness to the scallops, and the plum and vinegar topping gave a good accompaniment. Perhaps it could’ve been improved with a bit of a citrus twist?….. Reminiscing on roe, we got into a long discussion on ikura (salmon eggs), remembering those happy days when you could get a ladle full in a bowl of rice for a reasonable price. And M mentioned that someone was doing ikura tempura here….I’ll have to hunt that one down. The lamb was wonderful in its flavour. For me it was a great dish, with the paste of the miso carrying the flavour and texture of the lamb, and the background of chili lighting up your mouth. Pick up a bit of the shiitake sauce to touch things up, and you’ve got a wonderful mouth of flavours there. Then have a bite of the daikon (it’s such a shame to disturb it), and start again. On the downside, while the lamb carried none of the smell that can put off an audience, it wasn’t cooked enough for most tastes, leaning towards the very rare side of things. It’s a pity. Of the other people at my table, I urged them to try just eating around the edges, the flavours were so neat. M, for her part, did a good job on all but the bloodiest parts. We had another Rosemount, this one a “Diamond Lable”, a cabernet sauvignon that bloomed after a few minutes of air, with lots of spice and fruitiness to stand up to the spices in the lamb. After this they brought out another Chardonnay, again a Diamond Lable, but this didn’t please as well as the first Char had. Still, it was wet (as am I most of the time in Bangkok). The orange cup came out with this wine, and the balance of sweet and sour between the red bean and the citrus was great. Yoshii came by the tables to see how we were doing. Although he has a reputation as very demanding in the kitchen, he comes across as wonderfully humble at the table side, and very approachable. We talked of things that could be done with game (see above) and of the differences in his restaurants. I was curious how he’d chosen the WGF, wondering if Tetsuya Wakuda had mentioned it to him, but he’d heard of the event on the road, touring Australia and Europe as part of an exhibition. It’s good to know the WGF is gaining such a wide-spread following. And so we broke up for the afternoon. I headed off to an oil and gas convention for grins (I have an odd sense of humour at times), and then made it back for my evening swim before dinner. And back in the executive club it was another glass of the Long Flat, some Poo Min, nicely fried crab claws, duck strudel with a dark sweet sauce, and some foie gras sausage. The other items all looked good, but I have to contain myself to some extent. Next installment, a wonderful meal of tortured animals.
  3. It was off of Gulf Air this morning at 9:30 As a nice note, although I took umbrage at their rendition of an Egyptian koushari (not enough macaroni for my liking, it needs a good balance of starch) they did have de Bartoli's Noble One available. Okay, so I had a sugar headache from having polished off a bottle. Nothing is going to take the shine off of a morning drive into the Big Mango. Cold towel, cold water, newspapers, and a wonderful driver who knows well enough not to engage the big, ugly farang with the stupid grin. After a brief whirlwind of getting a new tux fitted on Sukhumvit and then getting my cell phone numbers in order down on Silom, I was back at the Four Seasons and settled for brunch. This, in WGF terms, is the pre event. An opportunity to test your skills and lasting potential. I'm in bad shape. I lasted a bare 1 hour and 45 minutes, in which time all the damage I managed was some sashimi (saba, salmon, and octopus), grilled eel, fresh oysters, cold crab claws, cold crawfish, a handful of scallops, some trout and salmon roe, a few slabs of pan fried foie gras, a small terrine of foie gras, some suckling pig, red pork, and a few sumai. It was quite a feat, I tell you, fitting in the last few isaan pork sausages and the 7 pepper crusted short rib. That, a Bloody Mary or two, a martini, and some champagne, and I was beginning to feel the airplane induced lack of sleep beginning to catch up to me. So, a brief nap, some time at the pool, a couple of glasses of Long Flat Chardonnay and a Marlborough to go with the masaman beef appetizer and the mango and sweet dipping sauce, and I'm beginning to wonder how I'm going to last through all this. Oh well, half an hour until the good Ms Schafer shows us what she's got. Maybe I could fit in one of those sweet sesame desserts they have over there.......
  4. Chris, Nicely written, with a good feel of Lost In Translation, something that you have to spend a lot of time in airports to appreciate. I had to fly to Saudi about that same time, just after 9/11 (from Houston, for my part), and you've caught the tone quite well. It's curious, there's something about life in Saudi that draws a lot of the expats to cooking. Perhaps it's that there's no better way to make friends quickly than to feed them? I'm looking forward to part 2. Cheers, Peter
  5. Now I've got to figure out how to get someone to pay for me to go to Quebec. That was a great write-up, Ivy.
  6. For the fourth year in a row, it's time for me to get serious about eating. 11 a.m. to midnight. Seven nights, six days. It'll be gruelling (although I don't expect to see any gruel). The World Gourmet Fest at the Four Seasons in Bangkok will kick off this Sunday with Sarah Scaffer from Frisson in San Francisco. After that it's 6 more nights of a combination of Peter Gordon from The Providores in London, Fatima Hal from Mansouria and William Ledeuil from Ze Kitchen, both of Paris, Yoshii Ryuichi from his place in Sydney, Michael Mina from his group in the US, Ruth Van Waerebeek from Concho Y Toro in Chile, Marco Talamini from La Torra di Spimbergo in Italy, Geoff Lindsay of Melbourne's Pearls, Emily Luchetti from Farallon in San Francisco, and Vincent Bourdin from Valrhona for the chocolates. Khun Pitak is coming down from the Four Seasons in Chiang Mai, and Philippe Agnese from the Bangkok operation will be doing more desserts. Mina's dinner on the 12th should be something. The Chaine des Rotisseurs has booked him out for that evening. And, as a follow up on last year, Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Nicholas Schneller (executive chef for the Four Seasons, Bangkok) are going to do another champagne and foie gras menu. It is my avowed intent to be there for each and every night. If anyone else is around for the meals or classes, give me a shout. I'll post my ramblings for each of these as I recover from the headaches.
  7. I'd go first for the C's....the odd and abstract around the edge of things. Then it'd be a tough call. Of primary concern, is it my money or someone else's? If it's my money, I might go for the Class B, and look for the rising stars, the people who do one or two things really well with what they can get. A class A can either be euphoric, or else disappointing in the extreme. Not that they don't deliver, but that they leave you wondering if you missed something. Put another way, I've found it easier to forgive a flaw in a $100 meal, whereas at a $500 sitting I expect things to be perfect.
  8. Khmer food, when it's good, has all of the herbal wonderfullness of Thai food, but without the burn of the chili. Those addicted to the heat will come away somewhat disappointed, but for me it's akin to dropping a cube of distilled ice into a good cognac, and finding the soft smells of grasses and leaves there, hidden under your noise. I first went to Cambodia back in '97 to do the tourist thing, and came away, after a rushed couple of evenings in Penh, thinking that it was a town with a lot more to offer. A couple of years later I lucked out and a friend of mine was posted there on official business. This made for an excellent reason to return - villa, kitchen, armed security, all the thrills. My assumptions with regards to Penh were correct, there are some wonderful gems buried therein. At the time, the late 90's, early 0's the best of the Khmer food was (and may still be) Khmer Surin over beyond the monument as far as the expat community was concerned. Their Luklak (marinated beef, similar to Korean bulgoki) is well presented, and there’s a small dish usually used for sweets that they do a nice hor mok (fish pate) style appetizer on. The dish, with it’s little ceramic covers, is reminiscent of a Morrocan tangine. Pon Lok on Sisowath Quay is a monstrosity of a building, but has beautiful Khmer and Chinese dishes buried in its phone book of a menu (I liked the "road frogs") - as a comment, it's been erroneously reported that the place opened in the late 90's. Mr. Pon Lok was there in Penh in ‘85 and started up with three tables on the sidewalk. It was ’93 and UNTAC when he had his chance to go big. In comparison, the FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) didn’t open until 96/97 (when they got the bats out). He does have some history (and my respect for his kitchen). Up the River there's a string of waterside venues, all with caberets and plenty of noise. Of these, Hang Neak has consistently served some wonderful meals, and is still one of the favourites of the embassy circle. (I would recommend their steamed pigs brains). And, one of the benefits of the French, Penh has some of the best baguettes I've ever eaten. Late at night, on a corner, surrounded by beggars, there are few things as delicious as a good piece of bread stuffed with that mystery spam that the Vietnamese produce. I would put the bread in Penh well ahead of Saigon or Vientiane. Just as I'd left in 97 thinking I was missing something, it was this Gallic connection that troubled me. So, last October, while in Thailand on other matters, I took the opportunity to return to return to Phnom Penh for a few nights, with my primary target being Comme La Maison, and their boudin noir. Ever since I'd read Steingarten's "it takes a village to kill a pig" I'd had cravings for blood sausage, and Comme La Maison had this very thing on their menu. But I'm getting too far into details. That's for another writing. Oh, and lest I forget, good French wine is not expensive in Penh. Wandering through the wine section of Lucky Mart will make any tax-abused Canadian shiver at the knees. The FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) isn’t so much of a place to eat, as it is to sit and take in the “colonialism” of it all. Still, if you want to see the bats come out of the Royal Museum at dusk, you need to be eating in the back. The Boullonvillier Hotel has a good menu. Pork pate, cod “doughnuts”, a nice steak with wild mushrooms. There’s the steak tartare, but the meat is Khmer, so it might be a bit of a gastrointestinal-adventure. I had a class of Spanish Cavas to start, and then a Languedoc. I spent one night just dining up Sisowath Quay (where I was staying). Rastaurant Taboo had a very nice version of the classic fish amok, somewhat more peanuty and oilier than I remembered from Siem Reab, and a wide selection of Belgian beers. I popped up the stairs after and took a balcony seat in Pon Lok and had ox tongue with pepper and lime, fried frogs with spices, crab with tamarind, and a blood warm chardonnay……the Asians don’t believe in cold drinks in warm weather. Oh, and don’t be put off by dessert. The nyan bai, chi nyan, and nyma pi setr are all little secrets hidden within sweet coconut gel and banana leaves. The Riverside is German. I took in a Swiss dish of pork strips in a sour cream sauce, and admired their list of 10-16 year single malts – Glengoyne, Talisker, Laphroig, Cordhu, Cragganmoire, Bowmere, Glennfiddich, Oban, and Glenroths, Aberlour and Lagarulen (pardon my misspellings, my notes get more atrocious as the night went on). La Croissette had Tiger beer on tap, and a home cooked ham, as well as Le Cheeseburger (which I passed on….I was beginning to fill up). Breakfast along the Mekong is always near perfect. A croissette stuffed with country pate, a good espresso, and a cold beer. What I had dubbed in 1997 as The Blade Runner Café (not their name, it was something like Café 63) is now reworked as the Mondolkiri Café. The stylish linoleum has been replaced by faux sandstone, but the menu is still ardently khmer, with a good selection of items such as beef penis with traditional herb soup, boiled spicy duck, khmer fish soup, and “deep fried break with fish past” – which I never did get explained. Oh, and under “French Food” they have luklak. Friend's Restaurant is a couple of streets back from the Quay. It's a project to get kids off the street and into the kitchens (where they belong, say I!). Some interesting fusion approaches, and reworkings of some of the stall food, such as the large plump noodles to be found by the statue places across from the museum, similar to yaki udon. As in Thailand, the clubs can have very good local snack food. The Spark, a monstrous thing of metal and glass, where everyone who’s anyone comes to to be seen and shot at, Prab Sovath, one of the most famous singers was there, as I recall. Meanwhile, I had very good frogs, and other bits of finger food. Another old favourite I took in again was Irina’s. It had moved, but after an hour I rediscovered it. This is a Russian restaurant that has been around for a bit. They specialize in the stews of the truck stops of the open steps, and do very good casserole type dishes. They also do blinis with salmon caviar, and keep your bottle of Russian Standard vodka in the freezer for you. And Topaz. This is the NGO expense account joint. Excellent French cuisine, wonderful cheeses, I had a perfectly executed braised veal shank. The service is impeccable, up to the point where they all want to run outside and watch the fireworks. But then, this is still Indochine. And, let us not forget, there’s still the street. Roast small birds, sweet rice in bamboo, small fish, and cold beer Lao. I’ll have to write in more detail later.
  9. I do love St. John (I must post that write up sometime soon), but is it a place I'd take my dearest for a romantic meal? Perhaps if I was Hannibal Lector out with Jodie Foster for a nice dinner....
  10. Peter Green

    Belgian Beer

    Going through my notes from last year's trip, my five would be: Morte Subite - Sudden Death, a Belgian game of chance actually, but also a great name for a great beer Leffe Blonde - always an easy choice Hapkin Blonde - recommended by Michael Jackson, and a nice counterpoint to the easy-to-find Leffe. Pauwel Kwak - for the wooden contraption to hold the glass if nothing else Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus for a framboise The beer circus in Brussels is a great place to graze through things. Plus, they have a wonderful hamhock with mustard. If you're buying for the room, the Temple of Beer is a pleasant place of worship.
  11. Peter Green

    Hooch

    A very good piece. It's far better to enjoy one very fine drink and the experience that goes with it, than to promiscuously tip back anything at hand is what drinking should be about (and many other things)
  12. Man, a new Bourdain series. That'd almost be enough for me to buy a satellite.
  13. I'll write more, but I just returned from business in London, and ate two of my four meals at St. John. Plus, I got to chat with Mr. Henderson a bit. That day I took the salted duck hearts, the roast marrow salad, and the faggot and mash. This was washed down with some four pints of 6X Ale. After my first meal at St. John, I was committed to returning. It meant a mad rush across London from the Arch to Smithfield's in order to get checked out and catch the flight, but the razor clams, smoked eel, and lamb sweetbreads in bacon were worth it. Looking back, if I compare either of my meals at St. John with the meal at the Square (that cost twice as much as the two St. John meals combined), I can remember all the details of St. John, whereas the Square fades into a dim recollection (except for that haunting credit card receipt). I'll write more once I collect myself. Oh, and the book is excellent.
  14. Oh dear! I so would llike to enter, but I'm in Saudi. Would it be safe to review a restaurant in Bangkok? It's sort of just around the corner?
  15. Regarding the fruit sex issue (which is a title impossible to ignore), isn't the sex related to the plant and not the fruit? By definition the fruit is an ovary, a seed surrounded by a "womb". My food science wife grossed out a nephew eating an apple once with this bit of information.
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