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Posts posted by Toby

  1. During the summer I have access to great-tasting, picked-the-day-before heirloom tomatoes, and I eat them all the time; usually sliced up with a little salt and olive oil, or else just popped in my mouth (the cherry tomatoes). I had the same tomatoes, at about the same degree of freshness, in a dish at Blue Hill called Tomatoes! A variety of different colored, contrasting-flavored and textured tomatoes were sliced up along with a small scoop of watermelon sorbet and there was some citrus flavor in the dressing. It totally enhanced the deliciousness of the tomatoes, bringing out their lusciousness and perfectly balancing sweetness and acidity.

    Actually, restaurants that make a point of having good suppliers usually have easier access to better ingredients than individuals do.

  2. I would be stupid to go to a restaurant for a great peach.

    Why is that?

    That's the clincher to the whole argument. I don't want to go to a restaurant and have a plain, perfect peach for dessert. I can, with some care in shopping, buy a perfect peach. When I eat out, I want the restaurant to cook for me -- I want to get the perfect ingredient cooked perfectly -- isn't that the restaurant's reason for being? I want to see how they transform a perfect ingredient into something even better tasting, and all that (complexity, complementariness) is how they do it.

    I once went to a Japanese restaurant where there was a little grille in the center of the table and diners were expected to cook their own raw ingredients. I was outraged. I cook at home all the time. When I go to a restaurant, I want them to cook for me, and show me all the craft they have.

  3. The calzones were unlike any I have ever had.  I wonder what is the origin of the shape, Is this Dom's

    creation or might it be derivative of Sicilian pastry.  Does anyone know about this?

    I've seen Sicilian-style semolina bread in fanciful shapes with bear claw cuts on the edges.

  4. Yes, I haunt Chinese restaurants in New York, ordering salt and pepper squid, hoping to get something approximating the salt and pepper squid at Yuet Lee's in San Francisco. But the fact that I'm perpetually disappointed is not only because I can't find anyone who makes it as good as Yuet Lee; all the versions I've sampled have just not been very good and I would know they weren't very good whether or not I'd ever tasted what to me is the best version.

  5. If what Steve is saying is that a perfect peach prepared deliciously will be even better than that perfect peach eaten out of hand, then of course he's right; otherwise, we'd never cook beyond the most basic level.

    But to get back to the original question, I'm happier (and will have a happier taste memory) eating the plain perfect peach than I am that same perfect peach that's been prepared with technique, complexity in a not-good tasting way. So if I go to a restaurant that does complicated, technique-driven food using good ingredients and the food isn't really memorably delicious, then I'm disappointed.

  6. The sense memory factor is my standard. At a certain price point I want food that stays with me forever without notes.

    Exactly, when the food isn't memorable, then to me it's a wasted eating opportunity, in the meaning of building up my lifelong sense memory databank. (Of course, this is spoken from the privileged position of having enough to eat every day.)

  7. Two to three eating opportunities a day, multiplied by 365, multiplied by however many years left you expect/hope to live.... I don't care what kind/level/style of food it is, I just want it to be wonderful for what it is.

    Sometimes other factors can make for a wonderful and memorable meal -- dinner companions, wine, great service -- and compensate for food that doesn't quite live up to its expectations.

  8. The chestnuts looked as if they had been cooked first (I don't know if roasted or boiled; they were very tender) and then left to sit in the sugar and white rum. The rum was very strong and flavorful. Maybe Nina can get more precise instructions; it looked like once you got past peeling the chestnuts, then all they had to do was sit around in the rum for a while. They were packed into a tall glass bottle, slightly diamond-shaped, I think.

    The veal with red peppers was my favorite of the non-pizza, non-calzone dishes. The veal was very tender and the red peppers had great flavor. The buffalo mozzarella was very different from other buffalo mozzarellas I've eaten -- it was incredibly tender with just a suggestion of the fibery-type structure that holds mozzarella together.

    The calzones were amazing -- ring-shaped, something like two feet in diameter, with an outside edge like bear claws, these were baked, not fried. As someone remarked, they were truly artisanal. The calzone came with a dish of tomato sauce that we passed around. I can't remember if this was the same sauce that went on the square pizza??

    All the food had such depth and soul to it; it looked and tasted like food cooked by people who knew exactly what they were doing and loved doing it.

  9. Sublime food. I've never been a pizza lover, but I can see many trips to Brooklyn in my future. The chestnuts in white rum and sugar were unbelievable. Great company as well. Many thanks to Nina for organizing another wonderful evening out in the boroughs.

  10. In Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking, she describes best end of neck of lamb as the "French butcher's term for the best end of neck joint, consisting of eight cutlets. It is trimmed exactly as the cutlets would be if they were to be cut separately for grilling, with the chine bone and most of the fat removed, so that only the actual cutlets with their bones are left."

    I use cut-up lamb neck for all kinds of stews, tajines; this cut is very bony with a lot of fat that has to be cut off, but with slow cooking becomes very succulent. I've also left it whole and rubbed a paste of pureed cilantro, onions, garlic, paprika, cayenne, cumin and butter all over it and steamed it for about 2 hours. Do you think this comes from higher up on the neck, and that best end of neck is closer to the shoulder?

  11. My posting about ripe fruit and how to find it aroused a bit of interest.  Perhaps there would be some interest in setting up a forum -- call it Vendage or the Peak Season -- where members could post up-to-date information on the peak picking periods of local fruits.  I live in fresh berry, apple, and peach country.  Regularly reports of such seasonal activities appear in the local press.  I am sure others have access to similar information.  Beyond the well-known cherry-picking festival in Traverse City, Michigan, there must be thousands of similar as well as less-organized events all over the world.  It would be fun to know when and where they are occurring and it could be an additional attraction to gourmet galavanting.   

    My proposal is that a kind of notice board forum could be established where members could post this information.  It would not be a discussion forum, though of course it could be spun off into such a thread as interest arose.

    This is a great idea. I'd be interested in posting on what's available and at peak season in local farmers' markets (New York area), and also in seeing the same for other regions, as well as the idea of posting dates and information on food festivals/farm tours/pick-your-own farms. Since we can't seem to get a recipe forum going, it might also be a good forum for recipes using the produce right when it's in season.

  12. I once cooked a meal where two people were vegans, two were vegetarians and one of the vegetarians didn't eat onions or garlic.

    For the main course, I made a recipe from Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud Cookbook -- eggplant like a pizza. Instead of a bread crust, the bottom layer was very thinly sliced eggplant, dredged in flour, and then deep fried, and then arranged in overlapping slices in a round on the baking sheet. The "pizza" topping was sauteed green peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red and yellow peppers, tomato confit or sun-dried tomatoes. There was a final topping of sauteed red onion slices, roasted garlic, nicoise olives and parmigiano and feta cheese, so I just divided the pizza into imaginary segments -- some got the onion and garlic with cheese, some without cheese, and some with cheese but no onion and garlic. It was very beautiful to look at and everyone was happy. (I suppose I could have made 2 smaller pizzas, but it never occurred to me at the time.)

  13. In my copy of Mathews' Chinese English Dictionary (originally published 1931, 1943 American edition), which uses the Wade-Giles romanization system (devised in 1890s) the entry for "bei" (=north, first syllable in Beijing) is listed with primary pronunciations as "po" = (bo) or "pe" (=be), and then a note says usually pronounced "pei" (=bei) and next to the characters for north + capital (=Beijing), they give the definition, "Peking." Interestingly, Nanjing (= southern capital), is defined as Nanking. I think very early translations of the Chinese classics used "King" instead of "Jing" (another character, meaning essentially "canonical work", as in "Yi King" = "I Jing"). I don't have any information about systems of romanization earlier than Wade Giles; James Legge who translated the classic works in the mid-19th century used an earlier system (since updated to Wade-Giles in later reprints of his translations); Ezra Pound may have relied on earlier versions of Legge, since he sometimes uses "king" instead of "jing"; he also used Fenallosa and B. Karlgren (who was Scandinavian) and was more interested in ancient and archaic pronunciations and transliterations.

    Don't you miss Off Topic Chat?

  14. It's not clear to me that b for p & j for k is a big linguistic shift.

    Now nothing is clear to me, but what I meant was that there was never a linguistic shift -- Beijing was always pronounced Beijing. Western missionaries (who were among the first to translate the classic Chinese philosophers, compile dictionaries...) just had a very misleading system of transliteration in which unvoiced consonants weren't used.

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