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Posts posted by ronnie_suburban

  1. When I bumped this thread I should have known that I was just throwing a match on a dormant pile of kindling! :biggrin:

    However, my intention was just to point out that what some people think (and/or say) about what chefs do in life is largely irrelvant (unless you're name is Rocco DiSpirito). We all make mistakes and we all get criticized for them but as they say, the best revenge is living a successful life. In that sense, Bayless can probably look back on the the BK episode with a certain sense of satisfaction. Nothing anyone said (or thought) about it appears to have made a lick of difference, nor is it ever likely to at this point. The guy's a force and an unequivocable success. He's a great chef, a benefactor and a fine entrepreneur, as well. I suppose he could say he was wrong but even if he truly feels that way, he doesn't need to.


  2. Rick Bayless just opened his Xoco Restaurant in Chicago this week and for whatever reason, it reminded me of this old thread. Since this discussion was last posted upon, he's continued to chug along. Frontera Grill was the winner of the 2007 James Beard Foundation award for Outstanding Restaurant. Chef Bayless won the recent Top Chef Masters competition and his Frontera Farmer Foundation has provided tens of thousands of dollars in capital grants to many small, sustainable farms in the Chicago area.

    Wait times at Frontera Grill, which hasn't wavered one bit in its mission of serving authentic regional Mexican cuisine, are currently running at nearly 4 hours on weekends.

    Many of us wondered while this debate was taking place, what negative effect the Burger King ads might eventually have on his career and his credibility. I guess he survived them. :wink:


  3. I'll organize something down here in North Cackalacky.  Come on, it's part of the "greater Heartland."

    Pig-Pickin' time?


    Toga, toga, toga . . . (well, you know what I mean :wink:).

    But maybe this would be better as its own event, separate from the Heartland Gathering.

    Milwaukee has some real merits (Steven had mentioned it, as well) but I don't think we have any 'forks on the ground' there.


  4. I think we are putting the cart before the horse. As I'm sure any of the organizers from Heartland Gatherings past can tell you, it takes a lot of time and energy to put together this four-day orgy of food. Even if Des Moines or Minneapolis/St. Paul are meccas of food gastronomy, if no one local is available to organize the events, then suggesting them would seem to be a moot point.

    True 'dat. :smile:


  5. I loved previous events in Cleveland and Ann Arbor but my preference is always for someplace new. I absolutely love the idea of the Twin Cities but is there anyone there to host it?

    Perhaps Indianapolis or Bloomington would be good destinations, too. But my food experiences in the rest of Indiana have only been memorable in the negative sense, and profoundly so.


  6. I did thank them both in person but I just wanted to extend additional on-line thanks to both Aaron and Judy for organizing an utterly amazing weekend. I feel like I really got to experience KC, especially with stops at Manifesto, Crum Farm and (unofficially) El Camino Real, which all seem relatively off the beaten path.

    Also, a big thanks to Steven for taking on the nearly thankless task of organizing the group dinner, which was really fantastic. Steven, our meal benefitted greatly with you at the helm.

    I also would like to thank Chris Hennes for not only bringing and sharing some of his amazing chacuterie but also for being an absolute beast on clean-up duty. We all got to do our cooking things and eat on time because of the great job that he and (his wife) Karen did. THANK YOU, both!

    So . . . where we goin' next year? :biggrin:


  7. I'll essentially echo what Steven wrote above about bluestem. Our meal there was excellent. Ingredients were of superior quality, the manner in which they were combined was innovative and risky (and mostly successful), and the technique was deft and precise. I can't say that it exceeded my expecations because -- based on what I already knew about chef Garrelts before our meal -- they were pretty high, but the experience was completely in line with them.


    bluestem is located at 900 Westport Rd. in Kansas City, MO


    Amuse of Compressed Watermelon with Crum's cherry tomatoes and Murray River flake salt

    Great components throughout but the fennel blossom and stem were, in my mind, the signature elements of this dish, flavor-wise. They delivered a distinctive, aromatic note.


    Bay Scallop with Crum's heirloom beets, prairie birthday arugula and coriander-champagne vinaigrette

    This is the one combination that didn't work for me, for a couple of reasons. Even though I enjoyed the bay scallops and the beets individually, I personally couldn't appreciate the flavors together. The combo was more discordant for me than complementary. Also, even though the onion element on this plate was relatively small, it was a bit overwhelming.


    Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with cucumber, onion and white gazpacho emulsion

    The inner workings . . .


    Chilled Tomato Gazpacho with cucumber, onion and white gazpacho emulsion

    Gazpacho being decanted at the table. In addition to the ingredients listed above, there were also bits of toasted nuts (almond?) and grapes in this explosively-flavored, yet balanced dish. This may have been my favorite dish of the night because the chef's manipulation took me to a totally new place. It was still gazpacho but I was tasting it in a way that I never had before. The elements were distinctive individually but came together as gazpacho with every spoonful.


    Walu with Rancho Gordo vaquero beans, artichokes, lemon-verbena broth and botarga

    This shot was taken right before the broth was added at the table. A great dish, with immaculately cooked fish and a sensational broth, which provided an acidic counterpoint to the fish's fattiness. The firm but creamy vaquero beans added a wonderful textural element.


    Piedmontese Beef with rapini, white asparagus, wild local chanterelles and La Quercia coppa

    This dish was sauced at the table. It was very flavorful and minerally, and something on the plate -- either the white asparagus or the (potato?) puree beneath the beef -- carried a subtle hint of truffle.


    Sous Vide Peaches with oatmeal streusel cake, cream fraiche, ginger gelee, caramel-peach foam and gingersnap wafer

    Here, the cake, the peaches and the wafer were all delicious without being overly sweet but I had trouble picking up the flavor notes in the foam. Still, I'd count this dish as a success.


    Chef Colby Garrelts

    After dessert, chef Garrelts came out to the dining room and said hello to the group.


    Petit Fours

    Not sure exactly what these were because I was away from the table when they were served but I think they were shortbread, passionfruit gelee and a very buttery-licious sandwich cookie. As full as I was, I really enjoyed these mini sweets.

    This was a distinctive, memorable and enjoyable meal and one that I'm so happy to have finally experienced. Nearly every chef I talk to in Chicago has nothing but positive things to say about chef Garrelts. It's clear to me that those who've worked with him like and respect him immensely. Those who haven't tell me they would love to experience eating at bluestem. After this meal, I would certainly recommend it . . . and you can definitely count me as a fan.


  8. It really was a great meal last night -- probably the best Gathering meal I can remember. I think the extra effort that went into planning the menu here beforehand really paid dividends.

    Below are shots of the the savory courses. Because the desserts were not brought to the tables (and I'd had quite a bit of bourbon :wink:), I somehow managed to not get shots of the desserts. :sad:


    Smoked Trout Canape


    Corn & Avocado Soup


    Focaccia & Fritter with Hot-Smoked Salmon


    Risotto (others at the table tore into this before I could get the shot)


    Cabbage with Bacon and Charcoal-Roasted Veggies




    The "jelly bean" Tomato


    Cornbread, Okra and Purple-Hull Beans with Pulled Pork


    Shrimp Curry (we got shrimp because we had a non-chicken eater at our table)


    Short Ribs (potatoes and veggies are somewhere behind there)


  9. Having a wonderful time in KC.

    Dinner at Lidia's was very nice. Cocktails at Manifesto were absolutely wonderful, especially the bourbon-based Ward & Precinct.

    Today's BBQ Tour was a lot of fun. Of the 4 stops, my favorite was LC's. I liked everything there, across the board. The ribs and the burnt ends were both great, with a noticeable amount of sweet smoke that didn't overpower. I loved the texture of these items, especially the ribs, which were barky on the exterior and moist on the interior. The burnt ends were intense and meaty. Both items had a great rub on them. Here are a few shots . . .


    LC's BBQ is located at 5800 Blue Pky in Kansas City, MO


    Ordering is fairly straightforward


    Spare Ribs, tips on


    Burnt Ends of brisket


    Delectable morsel of briskety goodness

    I'm very much looking forward to dinner at bluestem tonight.


  10. I think all the drinks are amazing and would love to hear your feedback.

    They sound great and I cannot wait to try a few out. I'm heading to TVH next week, which seems like especially fortunate timing.


  11. More, not entirely surprising, plaudits for Noca. They just received a glowing, 5-star review from The Arizona Republic . . .

    Named for its north of Camelback location, Noca is the urban-vibed restaurant that's won the hearts and minds of hard-core foodies this year. Although there's an entire staff of polished professionals to credit for this success story, it's possible to boil it down to two talented people - owner Eliot Wexler and chef Chris Curtiss - who share the same birthday and the same philosophy about the restaurant experience: make it phenomenal on every level.

    How do they do it? Let me count the ways. Curtiss builds his modern American menu around superb ingredients, using the best purveyors he can find. And his refined but playful food proves he's having as much fun as a guy who works non-stop possibly can.

    Noca Sunday Simple Supper, 5 stars

    Congrats again, to the entire Noca team!


  12. A big congrats to my friend Eliot, chef Curtiss and the entire Noca team, as Noca has been named Best New Restaurant by the Arizona Republic.

    It's not only us - even the James Beard judges think Noca is one of America's best new restaurants of 2008.

    Chef Chris Curtiss starts with top-of-the-line ingredients, and then adds imagination and technique to the mix. His contemporary seasonal fare is sophisticated enough to attract demanding gastronomes, yet accessible enough to reassure skittish mainstreamers.

    Way to go, Noca! :smile:


  13. Congratulations to NOCA.  After barely being open for 7 months, the restaurant is a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant Southwest.  NOCA has definitely changed the City of Phoenix Dining Scene.

    Congrats, indeed, to Eliot, Chris and the NOCA team. The award up for grabs is actually Best New Restauant U.S., not Southwest, which makes it an even greater accomplishment.

    For a complete list of semi-finalists, click here.

    Way to go, Eliot! :smile:


  14. Hi Chad,

    I really love your book and am thrilled to have such a substantial void in my food book library and culinary knowledge filled.  Thank you!

    I am getting ready to do some sharpening and am wondering if you have any thoughts or experience with the Wicked Edge system.  It seems pretty decent but I'm worried that the lowest angle you can set to using it is 15 degrees.  Given what I read in your book, I'm worried that 15 degrees will be fine in the short term but that once I become more experienced, I'll want even finer edges and that this system will not accomodate that.

    On the plus side, the system looks remarkably easy to use (at least from viewing the demo videos).



    Hi, Ronnie. Thanks for the kind words!. I'm not familiar with that system. It looks like somebody tried to combine a NordicTrack with a sharpening jig. Personally I'd find something like that extremely limiting. As you note, 15 degrees is as low as it will go, and I frequently set bevels and back bevels lower than that. The fixed jig also limits how you sharpen near the tip, where it is sometimes necessary to make adjustments to keep the bevel uniform. The other limitation is the grit range of the stones. The finest is only 1000 grit, which isn't bad for utility edges but not as fine as I'd like for kitchen use. I frequently take my edges up to 8,000 grit, sometimes to 10,000 or 16,000 if I'm feeling sporty. Admittedly, that's up in the fanatic range, but I like having the option.

    Hope this helps.

    Take care,


    Thanks, Chad, for the information and for confirming some of the initial thoughts I had about his system -- thoughts I couldn't have even mustered, if not for reading your book. :smile:

    Looks like a Sypderco or Edge Pro Apex for me.


  15. Hi Chad,

    I really love your book and am thrilled to have such a substantial void in my food book library and culinary knowledge filled. Thank you!

    I am getting ready to do some sharpening and am wondering if you have any thoughts or experience with the Wicked Edge system. It seems pretty decent but I'm worried that the lowest angle you can set to using it is 15 degrees. Given what I read in your book, I'm worried that 15 degrees will be fine in the short term but that once I become more experienced, I'll want even finer edges and that this system will not accomodate that.

    On the plus side, the system looks remarkably easy to use (at least from viewing the demo videos).



  16. san: I don't think that this a question of "before they didn't do it and now they might". I think they always did it and always will - depending on who you are...

    With all due respect, I don't believe that for a minute. It's possible that their policy varies, depending on certain (unknown to us) factors. But since the Alinea people are known to read these forums and are likely well-aware that this issue is discussed here and elsewhere, it seems unlikely to me they would be selective in how they offer the pairings. That just doesn't add up, given how public nearly every aspect of this restaurant now is. I could be wrong and it wouldn't be the first time but I'm guessing there's a much more obvious explanation about the split pairings and how they are offered.


  17. Are you sure no (un-pickled) cucumbers? It's been 8 long years since I lived near enough to Chicago to get a Chicago dog, but I could've sworn they had cucumbers.

    Totally possible that wherever you used to frequent did it that way because a lot of places have their own variations but the 7 I listed and linked to are considered to be 'the 7.'


  18. Imagine this: a restaurant owned by someone who is completely in love with food and cooking. A restaurant owned by someone who is intimately familiar with an astonishing array of food and who understands what distinguishes the great stuff from the good stuff. A restaurant fueled by passion -- no, unending obsession -- with eating and with feeding others. A restaurant owned by a friend with whom you've eaten dozens of times; the kind of guy who makes you feel right at home because he routinely orders everything on a menu 'for the table.' A restaurant owned by someone who unquestionably 'gets it.'

    My friend Eliot (whose moniker is molto e on these forums) worked on opening Noca for well over 2 years. It was grueling just witnessing the process from the sidelines. I cannot fathom anyone working harder -- or smarter -- to get a restaurant off the ground. From time he spent staging in restaurants over the years (learning how the big boys do it), to building networks of contacts, suppliers and investors, to hiring a dream team of FOH and BOH personnel, to securing a prime location and so much more, he left no detail unattended in his quest to bring Noca to fruition. There was absolutely no compromise in his process.

    For no other purpose than checking it out and congratulating Eliot, the family and I trekked out to Phoenix earlier this month. We spent a long weekend there, during which we ate 3 consecutive dinners at Noca. The entire experience was exceptional. Over the 3 meals, we were served nothing that was less than great and much of what we ate was exceptional. Between Eliot's dedication, chef Chris Curtiss' mastery and the cornucopia of top-shelf ingredients used at Noca -- many of which are local and organic -- we weren't exactly surprised.

    Below are some pics from our meals. It was comfortably dark in the space and not everything we ate photographed successfully. Still, I was able to capture a large portion of what we had . . .


    Noca is located at 3118 E Camelback Rd in Phoenix, AZ


    Queen Creek Olives and Roasted Almonds

    While baguette is also available, during our visit, these locally grown and cured olives were served, along with roasted almonds.


    Amuse: Salad of organic, free-range eggs with crispy chorizo and garlic chives

    Fantastic and rich . . . I'd like a sandwich of this, please!


    Amuse: Blue cheese gougere

    Another intensely-flavored palate stimulator.


    Kampachi Crudo with ginger creme fraiche, avocado and smoked paprika oil

    The crudos at Noca are phenomenal -- immaculate and delicious.


    Big Eye Tuna Crudo with ponzu gelee, fresh wasabi, cucumber and red sichuan peppercorn

    This combination was truly inspired. The fresh wasabi, grated in-house with a sharkskin grater, was a scintillating touch.


    Salad of roasted baby Chiogga and Red beets with golden delicious apples, Port Reyes Blue Cheese and micro arugula

    Sweet and savory brought together delectably. The cheese and apples complimented the tender beets and the mild bitterness of the arugula provided a nice point of focus.


    Salad of organic heirloom tomatoes with crispy shallots, Banyuls vinaigrette and basil seed oil

    These tomatoes, from farmer Bob McClendon, were phenomenal. I loved the crispy shallots, which were a cool touch.


    Simple salad of organic vegetables and lettuces with brioche croutons, candied pecans, pecorino and cabernet vinaigrette

    There was so much to this delicious salad, which was hardly simple at all. A fantastic combination of flavors and textures that went far beyond the sum of its parts.


    Laughing Bird Shrimp raviolo with braised artichoke hearts, arugula and barigoule

    Tender shrimp tucked into house-made pasta, paired with artichokes, was another winner.


    Duo of Peekytoe Crab: Crab Cake with remoulade and pickled cucumbers

    A great, minimal rendition, served with house-made pickles.


    Duo of Peekytoe Crab: Crab Salad with avocado and orange

    Fresh crab meat in a great pairing from chef Curtiss.


    Dayboat Scallop with broccoli rabe, celery root, applewood-smoked bacon and shallot jus

    I loved this course, where it was all about quality and execution. It's a straightforward dish in which nothing can hide. So, the ingredients have to be excellent and prepared with skill. Everything was perfect here: the scallops, the broccoli rabe and the celeriac. This was an appetizer version. The entree version is served with potato gnocchi.


    Duck Confit with napa cabbage slaw, citrus-honey vinaigrette and curry oil

    Excellent version with a slaw that was almost as compelling as the tender duck.


    "Caviar" of organic eggplant with buckwheat blinis, pickled red onion, lemon and chive creme fraiche

    A successful play on traditional caviar service, this eggplant-based version is fun and satisfying. Even the blinis were spot on. As with everything at Noca, all the accoutrements for this dish are made in-house.


    Spaghetti Chitarra with spicy San-Marzano tomato sauce and fresh oregano

    This dish is served with a fresh tomato sauce in-season and San Marzano tomatoes when fresh are not in season. The choice to use fresh oregano was inspired. The noodles were cooked to a perfect al dente. As was alluded to above, all pastas are made in-house at Noca.


    Spinach Mezzaluna filled with ricotta, mascarpone and pecorino, drizzled with a balsamic glaze

    The filling in these little half-moons was sublime. It was creamy and rich, and the lingering aromatic tang of the pecorino was immensely satisfying.


    Pappardelle with braised lamb ragout

    The third of Noca's 3 pasta offerings, this one may have been my favorite. Both the pasta and the ragout were easily good enough to be eaten alone.


    Seared Duck Breast with Alsatian tart, sauteed arugula, pickled huckleberries and duck jus

    Perfectly seared duck, accompanied by the wonderful tart that was filled with caramelized onions and gruyere cheese. I loved the huckleberries, too, which were a great accent.


    Wild Alaskan Halibut with braised escarole, potato pave, glazed pearl onions and onion jam

    I thought that across the board, chef Curtiss' skills with fish and seafood were exceptional. Here, the fish is cooked to perfection and the other components, which were all fantastic, highlighted the halibut without obscuring it. This touch was evident throughout our 3 meals. I'm usually not a fish fan but I've been thinking about it constantly since our time at Noca.


    Kampachi with grilled peach, micro arugula and balsamic glaze

    This combination surprised and impressed me. The fish was, again, cooked perfectly and the peach and arugula provided interesting counterpoints -- both sweet and bitter -- to its fattiness.


    Lobster Roll

    This is the Wednesday special at Noca and it's simply awesome. The lobster is sourced from the same supplier to The French Laundry. Here, it's served on a toasted brioche roll, along with duck-fat fries, house-made pickles and an addictive smoked paprika aioli that was a perfectly rendered condiment.


    Duo of Pork: Kurobuta Pork Belly with french green beans

    Tender meat and sticky fat, with deep flavor. Awesome!


    Duo of Pork: Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin with coriander spaetzle, golden delicious apples and sweet & sour demi

    Masterful use of the circulator transformed this often avoidable cut into something moist, delicious and truly memorable.


    Prime Beef Ribeye with olive oil-poached fingerling potatoes, thumbelina carrots, baby turnips and bordelaise

    Another straightforward and delicious dish, distinguished by the kitchen's attention to detail. It could have been ordinary. Instead, it was anything but.


    Seared Big Eye Tuna with braised beet greens, roasted heirloom beets and beet vinaigrette

    It was fun tasting the Big Eye tuna 2 ways. This seared version -- which was served with a small portion of the aforementioned crudo -- was delicious, and the pairing with the beets-3-ways was completely inspired, and new to me.


    Atlantic Skate and red wine-braised Short Rib Raviolo, with cranberry bean puree, sauteed spinach, royal trumpet mushrooms and ruby port reduction

    Unspeakably delicious. This was perfect. I couldn't believe the combination of flavors and textures here. The rich skate was tender and silky and the raviolo (house-made pasta, again) was fantastic.


    Steak Frites: Skirt steak with melted leeks, Tuscan fries and red wine sauce

    This is not something I would ordinarily order but we wanted to try as many of chef Curtiss' dishes as possible. As it turns out, not surprisingly, it was a fantastic rendition that indicated a rarely-encountered level of execution.


    Wild Striped Bass with pearl onions, pearl onion jam and shallot jus

    The skin on this moist piece of fish was as crispy -- and tasty -- as a potato chip. Pairing it with the onion and shallot components was a great idea because the flavors really sang together.


    Dessert amuse of cotton candy

    After dinner is over, each table is served a complimentary tower of cotton candy, which is a nice bridge to dessert. On this night it was strawberry. The blueberry version looks just like Marge Simpson's hair.

    The dessert menu at Noca was conceived, in part, by noted pastry chef Kriss Harvey, who has worked with some of the world's top chefs, including Joël Robuchon.


    Warm Doughnut Holes with dulce de leche jam, raspberry jelly and dark chocolate sauce

    Fantastic, fresh donuts that were just about the best I've had. They were slightly dense with a certain lightness and a subtle tanginess. The dipping sauces were fantastic, too, especially the DdL.


    Chocolate and Banana Pudding Cake with caramel, banana gelato (not pictured) and white chocolate sauce

    An intense dessert, which really satisfied the chocolate craving that I often experience after a boldly-flavored meal.


    Cheesecake (balls) with walnut praline, pineapple, carrot cake crumble and white chocolate sauce

    This 'cheesecake' was phenomenal. Not only was the cheesecake component rich and creamy but I could have eaten a boxful of the carrot cake crumble on its own (if I weren't already stuffed).


    Milk & Cookies: Malted Vanilla Shake

    Here's the 'milk' component, which was really malty and distinctive. It was like liquified vanilla crack.


    Milk & Cookies: Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Delectable cookies, served warm out of the oven.


    Milk & Cookies: Chocolate Chip Cookies

    In all their gooey goodness. I think this picture is worth 1,000 words, at least :wink:

    We had a few other dishes that just didn't photograph well, which I definitely want to mention. Mostly notably on the savory side was a wild mushroom soup that was earthy and rich -- just a stunningly delicious version. On the dessert side, the refreshing fruit soup, which is decanted tableside, is crisp and intense without being overly sweet.

    All in all, it was hard to leave Phoenix, knowing that we'd be leaving Noca behind, as well. I went out there with extremely high expectations and they were just blown away. After 3 days of eating chef Curtiss' cooking, I felt downright spoiled. His aesthetic spoke to me in a way that made me feel like he'd reached into my soul and knew exactly what I wanted to eat. I guess that shouldn't have surprised me because as many meals as I'd shared and enjoyed with Eliot, I should have guessed that Noca's menu would be written in a similar vein. Still the reality of the food at Noca easily surpassed the intellectual understanding of it. Yes, it's more than the sum of its parts, it's the collaborative effort of a team of people who love food and love nurturing others with it. Plain and simple, this is a restaurant by and for foodies, and it's in a class of its own.



    3118 E Camelback Rd

    Phoenix, AZ 85016

    (602) 956-6622

  19. Thanks, Maggie, for all you have done. Your contributions are incalculable. Your tremendous work here helped define eGullet.com and eGullet.org. Your dedication has been exemplary.

    But most importantly, you are a friend for whom I have great respect and admiration. I am lucky to know you, and those who have enjoyed reading these forums -- which you greatly enhanced via your work here -- are just as fortunate.


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