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Michael Laiskonis

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posts posted by Michael Laiskonis

  1. Perhaps I employ a bit of poetic license with the word 'parfait', if only because I long ago tired of the word 'mousse' on menus. I think the word can encompass a range of preparations, but I find it a good descriptor of any aerated, stable cream. Now if only I could find a better word for 'foam'...

  2. I confess that I've been using a couple of those Bau recipes, or at least adaptations of them for years (Ted, for the 'plain' one, I eventually decided to add a small amount of all purpose flour. I also thought that pectin NH did a little better at binding the mixture). I take the greasiness as a matter of fact, and even have silpats that I now reserve just for them. The drawback to storing them for long periods is that the fat congeals and gives the tuile a dull appearance. But then I realized that quickly hitting them with a blowtorch brings them back to a shiny new life.

    My favorite thing about these is the pulled or stretched effect you can achieve while still warm...

  3. Try substituting half of your cream with buttermilk. It will add that acidity and make your panna cotta lighter, but because the buttermilk has a thick viscosity like that of cream, you should still be able to acheive that rich texture.

    A word on using tropical fruits... in their raw state, some fruits contain an enzyme that will slowly break down- or inhibit altogether- the proteins in your gelatin. Mango, papaya, kiwi, pineapple are but a few examples. A very gentle cooking will generally destroy the enzyme...

  4. Who are you buying the most from/finding the most products you like (with all pastry items) Michael?

    For basic pastry items, I use a variety of distributors and primarily shop for price, as so much product overlaps. But then every company has a niche, a couple of unique items, so I do get a lot through European (true, the closest you might get to one stop shopping), Chef Source (a local offshoot of Mid-West, and someone who is willing to find anything I want, as long as I am willing to pay for it) and occasionally a few things from Uster. With those three and the occasional one night stand, I'm covered.

    For me the fun begins looking for all of the off-beat, kooky items I use more and more of... Tekla in Chicago for interesting cheese and dairy items, Yamasho for Japanese stuff, Fresh and Wild for hard to find dry ingredients, Chef's Garden for expensive, but fun, herbs and fruit... I'm endlessly scouring the little ethnic shops for stuff like jaggery, huezo, an paste, etc. And health food stores are good for stuff like lecithin, ascorbic acid, and other dry ingredients like buttermilk powder. That is really where I am right now- I'm happy with where I find the basics, but constantly on the look out for the not so basic...

  5. Wendy,

    When I was working in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I got all my chocolate from a company over in the Detroit area called GREAT LAKES GOURMET. I was using only Callebaut pistoles, but I believe they carried other brands as well.

    Unfortunately I don't have their address or phone number somewhere convenient, but I do think I have it somewhere at home among all my papers. I know Michael Laiskonis has mentioned them before, so you might try sending him a PM and see if he knows more info.

    If he doesn't respond in a timely manner ( I know he is a very busy person ), let me know and I will dig up their number ( although I don't know how current it is -it has been a few years since I have been in Michigan )

    Hope this helps,


    While I maintain a friendly relationship with these guys, I honestly haven't used them in a couple of years. I know they used to carry all of the Guittard chips and such, but I'm unsure if they picked up the E. Guittard line when it was launched- I haven't seen their book in a while. It is worth giving them a ring as they do ship outside of the Detroit area. Their primary lines are Patisfance, Ravi, Noel, etc.

    Great Lakes Gourmet/Tom Chaput 248.735.1700 or glg@voyager.net

    And Wendy, if you are looking for Felchlin's Maracaibo line (they have some newer 'origin' chocolate from Ecuador and Madagascar, too) you simply have to go through Mid-West Imports right there in Chicago... 800.621.3372 or midwestimports@earthlink.net

    As for European Imports, did you speak with their pastry guy Michael Cohen, or just whoever answered the phone? Michael may be able to give you better information or sources. His extension is 226 at 773.227.0600

    Hope this helps!

  6. what have you been told?

    For starters, the range of flavors and textures- spice, cream, fruit, rose, noodles,etc. is interesting. In recent years, pastry chefs have been layering flavors and textures in coupes and shot glasses. The similar presentation has inspired me to assemble some of the traditional flavors (rose, cardamom, pistachio, etc.) but utilizing perhaps different techniques: foam, gelee, etc.

    Any background/insight I can get will simply help inform my decisions!

  7. I'm engaged in a research project, a collaboration uniting traditional Indian desserts and ingredients with contemporary techniques and styles. In addition to the many custards and lassis, what I've been told of falooda fascinates me, and mirrors what some progressive pastry chefs have been toying with in recent years.

    What I am looking for are not only traditional and not so traditional versions/recipes, but also some of its history, or interesting stories and associations.

    Thanks to all in advance!

  8. Nice job, Debra. Now I feel extra worse for casually chatting you up right at the end there, not knowing that you were at the height of your stress! Did you get to formally meet the chef with whom you had the 'incident'? He's Craig Lewkowitz, who just moved to the area a few months ago from New Jersey and competed in Vegas over the summer. Nice guy and nice work.

    This was a learning experience for me, too. It is tough coaching an assistant, letting him run wild, all the while remembering that your own reputation is on the line as well. If anything, he learned alot in the process (both technical and organizational skills) and I'm proud that I was able to take him to the next level and steer him in certain directions. With his third place showing, I realize I've created a monster, as he is all too eager to continue competing!

    For some background to the event, it is an annual show/competition held at Michigan State University's Kellogg Center. The driving force behind it is a local wholesale company, Great Lakes Gourmet. Cacao Noel was the primary sponsor. Judges included Philippe Laurier from Paris Gourmet, along with a handful of pastry chefs and pastry chef instructors. Proceeds from the event help fund the MSU Museum.

  9. Just to throw a few cents into the pot...

    The new chef de cuisine at Emily's, formerly of Tribute, is Gabe Lacatoure.

    Jeremy and Paula Grandon of Jeremy are also both Tribute alumni.

    It is difficult to put a finger on Tribute's success, especially in the context of its location in a geographically challenging region, not to mention the relatively boring dining scene in SE Michigan. While we estimate upwards of 25% of our clientele come from 'out-of-town', our location does mean we see less traffic than we'd like from Ann Arbor to the west and Grosse Pointe to the east. All I can say of Tribute as a model, is that a similar project would require a lot of money, strong personalities in both the front and back of house, and a strong, identifiable cuisine. And a lot of money.

    I'm such a dullard these days that I can't remember the last time I was in Ann Arbor (or Windsor for that matter), so I don't know any of the mentioned restaurants apart from the Earle or Zingerman's, or Common Grill in Chelsea. Someone brought up Ann Arbor's 'sister' cities- Madison, Chapel Hill- but what about Berkeley? Would the obvious model that is Chez Panisse find footing here? Or is the proximity to Northern California's agricultural eden the primary force behind CP, rather than simply its location in a 'progressive' college town?

    I agree that A2 needs something to call its own. While the restaurants in the western suburbs do attract business from the west, I don't see the very important Oakland County money willing to trek down to Canton for dinner. Novi, maybe. Both rapidly growing areas are, however, choked with chain restaurants; no matter how much 'quality' you invest in to compete with these places, I don't see the support...

  10. In some quarters this becomes almost a political issue... I can only speak for myself, having never seriously competed, that my inspiration tends to come from other sources- and I rarely closely follow the competition scene. Surely I appreciate the techniques being developed and the design aesthetics that have evovled. To use your example, while those innovations may share some spirit with what the Molecular Gastronomy guys are doing, I draw the line of relevance on the side of making things taste good, or better.

    I definitely share your belief in the importance of organization, as what I've seen on the national and international level blows my mind. Seldom, when looking at the actual items made for tasting (bon bons, petit fours, entremets, etc) do i see much in the way of exciting flavor development. As has been mentioned on this board over the last year or two, while evolving, the competition system still has one foot firmly planted in 'tradition'.

    I hope Steve sees this and responds, as he is one of the rare chefs who has both solid competition experience and an affinity for progressive restaurant pastry...

  11. A quick search on these boards didn't turn up much, so I open my question here: I recall in my youth, preceeding the release of '95 Bordeaux, that it was being touted as the vintage of the decade and that was when it seemed the futures market really exploded. As, I assume, these wines are approaching drinkability, are the overall predictions holding? What have emerged as your favorites and disappointments?

    Particularly, in recent months I've been given one bottle each of the '95 Mouton and Pichon-Baron. How are these showing? Are they more worthy of patience and storing or are they 'ready' now? I've consulted Parker's 5th edition (1999) on both, but value the opinions here as much if not more...

  12. In advance of tasting this and a few vin santos in research for an upcoming Tuscan-themed wine dinner, I'm curious if anyone had any tasting notes or info to share. I know the following...

    I'll be sampling the '98, though it appears the '99, if not more recent vintages, has been released. The grapes are grown entirely at the Castello della Sala property and are subjected to botrytis (I believe muffato refers to mold or rot?). The current blend is predominantly Sauvignon Blanc with Grechetto, Gewurtztraminer, and Riesling. Harvesting extends into the beginning of November. It sees six months in French oak. The first vintage released was the '87 as one of Antinori's 'experimental' wines, and the first two vintages used the same blend found in their Orvieto Classico Abboccato. Not ridiculously expensive, the 500ml wholesales in the mid $30s...

    So, is there a tradition for botrytised wines from Umbria prior to this 'experiment'? Is this wine released with every vintage? Any other info or tasting notes out there? Any other interesting/quirky Tuscan sweet wines that I may not be aware of?

    I'll post my impressions when I taste it this week.

  13. I've always been a huge Fernandez fan, and especially love the Dehesa la Granja; its price point is just low enough to squeak into the realm of 'everyday' (well, once or twice a week!) wines for me. Big question I have is about Zamora in general... little has been written about the area, and I get the impression that Fernandez is on the leading edge of bigger things coming from there... true? In the coming years will we see a boom of younger winemakers following his lead? And what I hear is that neighboring Toro, as well, seems to be on the cusp of something big... I know the Numanthia-Termes- anything else of interest emerging there?

  14. When I make my nougat montelimar, I cook the honey and the sugar/glucose separately- merely bringing the honey to a boil, timing it to coincide with my sugar reaching 260 degrees F. I then pour the honey into egg whites, followed by the sugar (I'll start whipping when the sugar hits 235 F). Yet before I add my nuts (which I keep warm to better incorporate), I continue to cook the mixture, while whipping with a blowtorch- gently warming the outside of the mixer bowl. I'll continue to cook until a small pinch of the nougat tests firm in a bowl of ice water, then add my nuts and roll out between caramel bars, on a silpat, dusting with a tant pour tant of confectioner's sugar and corn starch. My proportions are...

    1300g nuts (hazelnut, almond, and pistachio)

    200g fresh egg whites (pasteurized will not work)

    550 honey

    1600g sugar

    340g glucose

    I then keep it wrapped in plastic and simply cut it daily for mignardise plates...

  15. So, I thought that other thread about cooking with snow was silly and strange, but making snow is an idea that I can definitely buy into!

    Given you find a reliable method of production, and then storage, what do you think you might actually do with it?

  16. A local chef gained nominal 'fame' for a smoked chocolate mousse quite a few years back. I remember hearing the details of the process, but have since forgotten, but I do recall not really caring for the dish at the time...

    I do think there are some exciting possibilities; perhaps I can play a bit this week.

    Any requests?

  17. Just when I thought cotton candy was on the outs, one of my six dessert courses (sixteen in total) at WD-50 was a tiny bowl of ginger flavored cotton candy. The coolest thing about the flavor was that it didn't hit you right away but slowly crept up as the sugar dissolved in the mouth. Regrettably, by the end of that particular night, I had succumbed to such sensory overload that I didn't even think to ask Sam how he had done it...

  18. Please expand on your "Saffron and Tea" idea.

    Just the thought that flavoring your poaching liquid with either may lead you into some new territory...

    Saffron Poaching Syrup

    750g water

    250g white wine, preferably muscat, gewurztraminer, or riesling

    juice and zest of one orange

    300g granulated sugar

    2 pieces star anise

    2 pieces clove

    1 stick cinnamon

    pinch fennel seeds

    pinch coriander seeds

    1 piece bay leaf

    2 pinch saffron

    1. Combine all ingredients in a non reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil. Use as desired.

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