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Steve Klc

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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  1. Steve Klc

    Using a Pacojet

    Some people with both a Paco and a batch freezer still do their sorbets in the batch freezer, me included. If you haven't seen it yet, there's a very nice section in Torreblanca's book on doing ice creams and sorbets in the PacoJet, about 20 recipes or so. I think the main thing working against you getting a "tight" sorbet in a Paco, after you adjust the sugars, is whether you can reliably freeze the beakers deeply enough--if you can, you should be fine getting the texture/firmness you want.
  2. This might be a little misleading, Sharon. No matter what care or method you employ at home or in a pro setting--even with a Sumeet--you can't produce a nut flour at all comparable to the commercial product. You can grind it up and get varying degrees of fineness--but there's no way to press the oil out to get nut "flour." What you get still has all the oil in it--what you get is some form of "meal" not flour. Flour has 80-90% of the oil pressed out of it--and hence its value in certain applications, a la macaroons and other things you'll find recipes for in the best pastry books. If you try to substitute some home-made, home ground alternative into a dessert or application which calls for a nut flour, you'll usually end up with something leaden or sunken, rather than light. It's the oil which tends to screw with texture, not necessarily the grind or fineness. The take home message is this--use flour when your application requires it; use ground almonds, even something you grind at home, when your application doesn't require it. ATLAF--if you're not sure--do a side by side test of small batches--and see for yourself whether it makes a difference. If you have flour, and want something even finer--you can pulse true nut flour in a Cuisinart with the metal blade (just like you can pulse granulated sugar to make it even finer.) (Some of this meal/flour confusion may stem from labelling issues between countries and manufacturers and dumbing things down, but most "almond meals" I have used are simply ground nuts and tend to be much oilier than "almond flour" and I never substitute or swap the two. I tend to stay away from things labelled "almond meal flour." Hope that helps.)
  3. in case anyone is wondering about the designers and pastry chefs who actually collaborated on those dresses pictured above, the first was by Austin Scarlett and Robert Twardzik, the vampire M&M number was by Diana Kane and Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, the wedding dress with white chocolate (I believe) was Celestina Agostino for La Châtelaine & François Pralus, the Egyptian themed one was by Martin Howard, of course, and worn by Martin during the runway show, who was accompanied by a quartet of servants, fanning him with chocolate palm fronds. Some savvy veterans I know time their visit around pastry chef demos in the theaters--keep their seats for two or three in a row--that's a great way to get dessert. Pop out for a bite to eat--like to that great little Japanese chicken wing place on 19th or walk down to 10th to Cookshop--which Andrea Strong is 100% correct about--then come back for more chocolate. Also, Friday early evening, if you can get there, is much nicer than anytime Saturday or Sunday. That picture of the cocoa pod is too dry and dessicated to appreciate, it's probably been schlepped around for years. A real fresh one is white, vibrant, juicy and slimy. If you bought a fresh one, you're really lucky, because they can't easily be imported. Wholesale florists, that's it, I've heard.
  4. half to two-thirds should get you off to a good start, it'll extend baking time, and don't forget it will continue to cook and set once it's removed from the oven and allowed to cool.
  5. yeah, the container is irrelevant--just something you can seal effectively. I know people who bake these both in a water bath and not, in radiant and convection, covered and not, and every possible combination--everyone has a personal way of doing these. I lean toward convection, water bath, covered with plastic but that's not always practical in a restaurant setting.
  6. Marlene--the "theory" behind using a convection oven for custards is that the fans ensure better air circulation, keeping the oven at the same temp all over, and hence less need for a water bath--whose real function is to help coddle the custards while they are cooking and to prevent them from over-heating or heating too quickly, as they might in a radiant heat oven where the focus of the heat is coming from the bottom of the oven. But that water bath can help baking and setting, too--if at the start of baking you pour very hot water in as the bath. so convection can be really good for creme brulees--what's not necessarily so good is if you have powerful fans blowing the air around, which disturbs the surface. another trick to try is putting the ramekins in a hotel pan--with or without water bath--and covering the pan with plastic wrap--and then baking. you'll know if whatever you're doing is not working because the custard will tell you once you unmold it or eat it--you'll see little microbubbles in the custard--on top, on the sides--and that'll tell you where you went wrong. 200 for an hour seems too short and too cool--try starting at a higher temp like 250-275 also make sure you verify what your oven temp actually is.
  7. Much the same thing could be said about certain restaurant reviewers, professional, anonymous or otherwise.
  8. Steve Klc

    Using a Pacojet

    Right, and for most things to work right in the Paco, Wendy, you have to use a freezer that gets really cold, at least -5, and hold beakers for 24 hours at that temp before you spin. That means if you fill beakers at 7PM, set them in the freezer overnight, and then try to spin them for service next day at 10 or 11AM--they haven't been frozen long enough. One reason there's such...inconsistency...with the Pacojet is some freezers are shared use, doors opened and closed, defrost cycles go on and off automatically, etc. Most mixtures have to be really cold to stand up to the shaving action like Ted explained, it generates heat as it spins down and makes the end result soupy or soft if it was too warm to begin with (kind of like how you have to be careful adding really cold butter, pulsing quickly when you're making a dough in a Cuisinart. You use the cold/frozen butter cubes to balance the extra heat generated by the quickly spinning blades.)
  9. Steve Klc

    Using a Pacojet

    It broke because it had too much fat--I do mine in the Paco with a 0% fromage blanc, learned that tip from Philippe Conticini, works well. Use anything else with even a small percentage of fat, the Paco will break it or you have to reduce the amount of olive oil and then you lose its taste. CTB--in general--owning a Paco is like a little club, and it's an exclusive club requiring you to put in your own work, go through your own learning curve, before you feel like a member. Sorry, but that's the way it is--it'll be better to ask more specific questions, like what else do I need to know before buying a Paco, will I need to buy special freezers, how many beakers should I buy, and all of that will depend on your size and situation. Then once you get it, and have tried things, ask what you could be doing better. Begin by reducing sugar % like devin suggests--that's the starting point. Everything I do is like 3 degrees Brix less than what I might do in a batch freezer. No stabilizers needed. You can approach the Paco just like you approach a batch freezer--you can be as measured and scientific with the Paco as you can be with a batch freezer or you can be as cavalier and unscientific with it, just as some pastry chefs are with a batch freezer. It's just the science of the Paco is a slightly different science than the batch freezer--there's a lot of sloppy work and handling in each system--and the science changes when you decide not to spin a la minute and instead spin ahead for volume and then "hold" beakers already spun and scoop from them--you need two freezers to do that. We get ours serviced by that same place, and get next day turnaround, I think they're the only folks who do Paco repair. Once a year servicing may or may not be enough, depending on how many times you spin, how many hours you put on the motor daily/weekly/monthly. The book that came with the Paco a few years ago was clueless--anyone know if they are shipping a new one with valid recipes and valid science specifically for the Paco? With the dollar the way it is, not too many folks I know are buying new ones--we got a few when they had that great deal "for two" a few years ago and I love them--then you could get two plus a ton of beakers plus factor in yearly service expense and still come in way under the cost of a Taylor or Coldelite. But, even in one place that I have a Paco and a batch freezer--I do some things in the paco and some things in the batch because they're better in one or the other. The most rewarding stuff is the stuff you experiment with and figure out yourself--another cool thing I picked up from Philippe Conticini (and Chris Broberg, who was working for Philippe at Petrossian at the time and who himself was one of the first pchefs in the US working with the Paco under Gray Kunz) was making concentrated flavor essences in the Paco to work more efficiently and flavorfully: an example, freeze lightly poached and candied orange rinds in a beaker and spin--and then use that pulverized powder in recipes for great flavor. No need to "infuse" no need to strain because it dissipates. You hear of something like that, then experiment on your own to find what works for you. It's very empowering to put the machine to work for you creatively rather than always be dictated "by" the machine or by tradition.
  10. no, it's best if you discuss particular equipment in separate threads--and do a search for previous discussion threads on the items you're interested in, mixers, ranges, etc and after reading them, maybe adding a post onto them. good luck with your purchases, begin with a Hobart.
  11. Not that this is the best place to explain this, but since new members are continually joining and it comes up from time to time, I'll go over it again: joesan--your heart was in the right place, but thank you for not posting a lengthy recipe verbatim from a book--that's not considered to be "fair use" by eGullet, which holds to a very stringent standard protecting content creators. What you can do within reason, however, is put a recipe into your own words--using your language--especially if you work from it and are passing along your own comments based on your experiences. In this case, if you were familiar with it, you could have listed the exact amounts from this Bras recipe, said where you got it from, and then conveyed the instructions in your own words--adding things like "these steps seem really convoluted" or "I bake it for x minutes at y degrees instead," etc. It's a fine line to walk--but think of it this way--you can't quote pages and paragraphs from an article but you can quote selectively and break up the quotes you use with your own content, comment and opinion. Do the same with verbatim recipes and you will be fine. Does this take more time? Yes, but that's the cost of respect when you operate within a community. The difference between something in a book and the same recipe on a website is just that--in this case the copyright holder and/or the author has put the recipe on the site and is freely allowing links to it--that's why we usually advise "linking" to a recipe like Ted did or linking to a very long quote or the original article almost always as the most preferable course of action. Realize that if this recipe appeared verbatim on another website--but appeared there in violation of how we interpret copyright or fair use standards--we would not allow a link to it. That might sound tricky: an example--another less serious, less-well-run discussion forum allows their members to reprint entire articles from, say, the NY Times or LA Times willy nilly--which is a clear violation of commonly accepted media standards--and this Michel Bras recipe was in such an article that ran a year ago. Ted, trying to be helpful, Googles to try to find this recipe--and finds that the article was no longer freely available on the Times website anymore--but instead was now in their premium "paid" archive because too much time had passed--but he also finds that the whole article WAS cut and pasted onto this other less professional website. Could he link from eGullet to this other website? No--because eG respects the rights of the original author and publisher in terms of usage. If it were brought to our attention, we'd remove it. If it couldn't be posted here on eG, it usually can't be linked to elsewhere as an "end run" around our policies. Also, in general, eG pastry forum is not the place to publicly solicit for information (recipes, tips, etc) to then be sent privately--that way no one in the grander sense benefits. The idea behind everything we do here is we're all linked to a common goal: that of raising awareness, sharing and exchanging information publicly. Anything which isn't going to further that goal should be handled privately, and we even provide a mechanism for that--the pm system--but we'd much rather prefer our technology was used to help as many people as possible--by posting and answering and sharing publicly rather than behind the scenes. That way, in the long run, we show professional respect for everyone and we're all bound by weak, but nonetheless shared and respected community bonds. When you respect usage rights and content creation of others, you are respecting yourself. Any questions or concerns, just ask one of the "admins" of this forum via pm, who while volunteering to lead here are also working professional pastry chefs--content creators--and content interpreters--themselves. It's our responsibility to help guide and we're glad to help. So tell me, is anyone actually doing this coulant, this way, in the real world?
  12. Really well-organized mette, congratulations. Two thoughts to add for those trying at home: 1) sometimes the top rims break because they are molded too thin--even after filling with a second layer--it can help to leave the bowl to set inverted after you've tapped out a coat, propped up a bit to allow cool air to circulate; 2) on the two-color balloons, the warmer dark chocolate (higher temper point and working range) may have pulled the milk chocolate (lower temper point and cooler working range) out of temper as it was setting if it was trapped inside. same thing could happen with dark and white chocolate. that's why when molding, it can help if you apply the warmer (dark) effect first then mold or apply the white/milk layer after.
  13. everyone is going to have their own methods for this, which work for them and for their shape--and that variability is ok because what's really important is developing the "feel" for it. The great value of a hands-on class with top notch instructors is just this--there's someone there to make sure you "feel" what you're supposed to feel, to say that's too warm or not warm enough, etc. With more complicated curves and rods that bend into 2D and 3D spheres, I do score the entire length and I score deeply, to within maybe 1/32 of an inch of the sugar--so I can just peel the plastic tubing apart gently with my hands. I also unpeel most rods before they get cold--the sugar is less brittle and the tubes are more flexible and don't require being warmed up with a warming gun, as they might the next day. I'd rather have a tiny x-acto knife nick where I may have pressed too deeply into the tubing (and which I can cover with decor anyway) than have a tube crack or the knife chip the surface the next day. If you do it a few times you'll find the way that works for you--and you'll see how it nicks and chips differently depending on the temperatures. Isomalt is more brittle, and you'll have to adjust depending on your work environment and what you plan to do with the unmolded piece, as well. As you do it more, you'll also understand that shapes cool differently--at different rates--which makes how (which side of the curve) and when you score the tube more difficult (and also prompts you to develop little tricks to cool them down more evenly.) Very revealing narrative, Lee, thanks for the depth of your commitment so far.
  14. Badly if you don't take precautions. Merely sliding a saucepan across Corian will "scratch" it but depending on the color you choose you might not even see the scratch unless you bend down to just the right angle and shine a light on it just so. Of course, anything that really bothers you you can buff or rub out--but if you choose a good color (mine is Glacier white) you won't see any scratches anyway. If you are that kind of person who'll fret any mark, perceived or not, get Zodiaq/Silestone, not Corian. I'd make sure your vice/clamp has good rubber feet and you may want to let your installer know where you're planning to clamp down--he might be able to build up underneath with a little extra plywood and give you a little more support than is typical. I haven't ever clamped anything to my Corian, and wouldn't, so I can't speak from experience--I clamp to granite and stainless.
  15. It all comes down to having an open mind as a diner, having trust in your chef, and having the ability to tell when something "tastes good." Most diners don't possess all three. Good comment, Doc. And anzu, thanks for that mention of tavuk gogsu--the more reading anyone does, the deeper you dig, I think you'll find that much of what can be perceived as nouvelle cuisine or avant-garde in any given time period has culinary historical precedents. I helped open a modern Greek and Turkish-influenced restaurant a few years ago with Jose Andres, and I remember when he came back from spending a few weeks travelling the region--the "dessert" he talked about most when he returned was this ground chicken dish. We could never do it in the restaurant, and though we did push a lot of barriers and my desserts there were not traditional at all--something very "traditional" like this and authentic (though I hate that word) was way too avant-garde. As Doc said, appropriate in the context. Everyone should realize, though, that bacon and egg ice cream had been done as a dessert concept not by one chef, but two chefs, way before most people had ever heard of Heston Blumenthal: the Adrias of course did it and Thomas Keller/Stephen Durfee also did it at the French Laundry. My guess was each version was impeccably appropriate in their contexts.
  16. No, sorry to say, but I'll be on the lookout for Eddy's book, thanks Elie. The souffle technique wasn't given in the article, but for a good two decades pastry chefs have developed ways to prep and pipe souffles in advance, hold them and then bake them "a la minute" in minutes--and there are various ways to do it. That's if you like souffles at all, which I don't, and I haven't ever served one in a restaurant context. It'll be interesting for someone who has the book to report what Eddy does on this front. As far as the curd, yes, lots of people have figured out how to be able to boil the curd so the eggs don't curdle by adding or tempering with lemon juice very early--and then to whiz in the butter/emulsify the mixture at the end once it's cooled down, with an immersion blender. I think Jacques Torres was the first pastry chef I saw do the butter/immersion blender thing, back when he was at Le Cirque. I've probably been making curds like this for about 10 years, but it's been done longer than that. I do like that Eddy is sharing methods utilizing the microwave, that has to get out to the pro community more, but the innovative Spanish pastry chefs have used the microwave for curds and creams (in print) for years already. Bottom line, it is always a good thing when a book is published which has a very personal point of view and isn't just the same old-same old, which it seems Eddy's book is not. The issue isn't so much what the average diner knows--the average diner doesn't know much of anything--and first what pros do, and how they do it, all too often has to be filtered through the lens of the newspaper, magazine and cookbook food writer, who report to their editors and publishers, who usually feel all of this has to be adapted and dumbed down in the process. The good news of Ferran Adria, Herve This, Jose Andres, Grant Achatz and buzzwords like molecular gastronomy filtering out to this country's regional level is science and experimentation is officially hot now. That we've cooked and thought scientifically for years whether we realized it or not--that now more chefs, pastry chefs, editors and food writers have science on their brain--means everyone is going to hear more about this, even down at the local newspaper food sections, whether it's relevant and new or not, because it's perceived to have more cachet. It's something else to spin. The organic/Slow Food/Luddite/straight-forward types have already begun to fight back against what they perceive as manipulation, mind games and scientific parlor tricks. Now, whether any of this ultimately translates into better, more interesting food which tastes good, that's another story completely. The talented open-minded chefs and pastry chefs will still do the best food--because they do simple well and they do modern well; they appreciate and synthesize everything--and the less talented and less open-minded will still work within inherent limitations they can't or don't want to overcome. Diners and critics face similar hurdles. Eddy's book seems geared toward pros with that price tag, my guess is it's for the hotel/CIA/ACF/cooking school crowd--but that's just speculation at this point until I see it. Could still be a very good book despite that--and despite the "prestigious" nod it got from the panel of 5 Gourmand judges (which isn't really that prestigious and just a made up excuse for publishers to put little gold stickers on books to help leverage sales) and I'll try to get my hands on it and let you know. Compared to what some of us have paid for European books, 80 bucks on Amazon is a bargain!
  17. Special Report: A Look Inside a Professional Sugar Class Since much of our mission at the eGullet Society is education and sharing information, and we've often discussed the merits of attending pastry school and the role continuing education courses play in our development as pastry chefs, I thought it was natural that we begin to delve a little more deeply into the nuts and bolts of some of this instruction. A few months ago I approached Albert Uster Imports in Gaithersburg, MD, who had just launched a new series of diverse professional classes under the rubric 'Des Alpes University,' and asked if they would set one space aside for an eG member pastry chef to attend and report from the inside, in as close to real time as possible. Thanks to their generosity and that of their corporate pastry chef Anil Rohira, who developed this new educational program, we're now able to bring you just that: a look inside an introductory 3-day sugar class aimed at working pros, developed and taught by Anil, himself one of the best sugar artists in the world. Your online guide for this experience will be Lee Blackwood ("simdelish") a veteran eGulleteer and herself a multi-talented pastry chef with a dozen years work experience under her belt who, for the next several days, will chronicle her experiences in the class for us as she's taking it. A little bit about Anil: Most people know he assisted the incomparable Ewald Notter for 3 years, but not many know that even before that he was a teaching assistant at the CIA to Joe McKenna, their lead pastry-chef instructor, and that he hung out for 6-8 months after his graduation just to help out on his own time. "I always viewed teaching as another part of learning," Anil said, "but at the CIA I did it just to take advantage of the extra time I had. I had no intention at the time to end up teaching myself." Then came his 3 years with Ewald--and what impressed him most about Ewald was his tireless work ethic: "As a sugar artist and teacher he was already there, at the top, with no need to push himself everyday, but he did anyway. That fact is never lost on me," says Anil. For the past 4 years, Anil has been the corporate pastry chef of Albert Uster, and along the way he has delivered a slew of impressive performances as a sugar artist in competition on the world stage in his own right. But doing well does not inherently translate into teaching well, and Anil now finds himself at what might be called a defining moment for his career--having been asked by Uster to develop and lead their Des Alpes University. How he sees this particular 3 day hands-on class? "I've done hundreds of sugar demos, but this is the first time for this class--so it's a real test for me. I have two days of basic techniques planned--how to cook sugar, how to cook isomalt, how to use Venuance pearls, the basics of how to pull and cast--but since sugar is such a temperamental medium, I won't really know how far I can go on the third day until I meet the students and get to know them," Anil said. There will only be 8 students in the class: "I'm fortunate that Uster doesn't view these courses as a profit center," Anil lets slip, "because that way I can structure it to be more personal, more comfortable and, hopefully, it will be more educational in the long run." Fresh in his memory was how difficult it was to approach sugar for the very first time himself, and Anil says that "if I convey the basics well and help my students begin to understand the medium, then just like in any other aspect of pastry, where they go with it after the class ends will depend on the effort they continue to put in on their own." Anil, for the moment, is very fulfilled and he feels "this position could be my last job." He says this despite the travel required, which is 60+ days per year. A much better profile here: http://www.auiswiss.com/aboutUs_rohira.cfm A note about our correspondent: Lee recently became the Executive Pastry Chef for the new Metropolitan Restaurant in Annapolis, MD where she creates desserts for the Met, as well as two other restaurants, Tsunami and Lemongrass--and somehow she managed to get 3 days off from work for this opportunity, she's been practicing with her digital camera, and she's psyched. Lee also happens to write thoughtfully and well, so she's here for you--it'll be up to all of the eGullet community to determine the direction this thread takes. Take it away Lee, the class starts today, so introduce yourself, for the next 5 days or so this will be your diary but it will also be communal: everyone reading along with some interest please feel free to post, ask questions, etc.
  18. I find I'm in almost complete agreement with Arne here in terms of advantages, disadvantages, based on experiences with my own countertops--and the best choice or best combination of surfaces will vary for everyone based on how they work, their budget, where they're located and what they value. That's going to be fickle inherently--I love the dull, matte, buffable, "fake" or "plasticky" feel to the touch, pure white color of our Corian. I'm one year in and going strong. Two nicks, a few red wine, espresso, tomato stains and a few scratches rubbed or buffed out, it's handled my 230 pounds of downward force just fine kneading and rolling things out--though I've never whomped down onto it with a hammer. I don't have confidence I could really bang down on it indiscriminately--and I think if you go with a Corian expecting it to remain shiny or to progressively buff it back to hone its shine whenever necessary over time, you'll be disappointed. We chose our Corian, though, precisely because it did not look at all like granite. I love what it's not: dark, seamed, natural stone, cold and hard as a rock--but then we chose a color--pure bright white--to help light our small space and which actually seems to hide wear and tear really well--and which would have been unavailable in stone. How did I know the white would wear well? I didn't, but for 2 or 3 years I looked at the same color countertop/sink/island in an IKEA display kitchen, which got pounded and leaned on day in and day out (admittedly not ever cooked in) and it just looked great. Whether I'll still feel this way 3-5 years in, I don't know. That it's repairable, impeccably sanitary, doesn't need to be sealed and re-sealed, offered us the chance of a seamless sink in the same color and a seamless coved backsplash helped close the deal. But it also works for us because we have a large 1 and 1/4" thick granite countertop worksurface and a big stainless steel worksurface as well--and I think what Arne has done for pro cooks installing multiple solid surfaces at home should really be considered for all cooks in all homes. If Corian were all we had, if I were sloppy or hurried in the kitchen, if we had kids, I'd have more trouble recommending it with confidence. In our area, basic colors of Corian were significantly less expensive than granite, and now Zodiaq is more expensive than either. As a knowledgeable consumer you do have to check underneath Corian to assess just how it is supported, to see how well the guy who measured the template did and whether his information was accurately conveyed to the guys who made and supported your finished piece and point any dissatisfaction out to the installer. Send a few e-mails so there's a paper trail documented if anything happens down the road--and bingo, a guy will come back out and give you that support where you want it because they don't want to have to replace it a few years down the road when it cracks. We got our Corian through IKEA, because I had read reports of people successfully using IKEA to help leverage repairs or replacements down the road--the price ordering through IKEA was lower than the price direct from the very firm they passed the order on to anyway. Steve--when you first started posting about your disappointment with Corian, I wondered if it had to do primarily with the color and finish you chose, that had you had more user reports or informed consent with that particular color/pattern over time, you might not have regretted another choice as much. When I was in Costa Mesa I saw a Corian kitchen countertop fashioned to look thick--instead of the normal 1.5" it was 3+" and looked like a big squared off slab of mottled dark green poured concrete--I think it was what Corian calls Emerald or Malachite. Unique, very cool, a brilliant focal point within an otherwise white kitchen (doors, drawers, cabs.) I don't think I'll ever forget the impression that countertop made. I'd be looking seriously at Zodiaq if I had to do it all over again, but not because it looked like granite, instead because it offered a little more security in terms of performance and came in a bright white and a vivid red.
  19. you're demonstrating that there's a little chemist in every pastry chef and a little pastry chef in every chemist. my sense is, you're going to agonize over all the details just fine and find out exactly what you need to know about every issue. and that'll keep people invested, reading along. win-win.
  20. so, that's in the priority column--especially since it'll be easy for you to do I like how it bakes, it's a small, powerful and fast Sodir and I was given it for doing demo at a show in NYC once. But not because it bakes better--the big Profile convection oven actually is better. My kitchen is just a 7' x 10' galley so everything, really, is in a convenient place for me--I'm 6' 6" so yes I do have to bend down to get into the Profile but standing, bending, it isn't a conscious concern for me. That oven is at eye level for me, though--on an open shelf--it's above the microwave--which is on another shelf below it--yes, that's kind of an industrial/commercial placement, not for everyone--and in the Summer I tend to use them both more just because they heat the house up less. It really has nothing to do with keeping tasks separate, performance or convenience. My wife and I just naturally tend to bake more at home, recreationally, when it's colder--and then my use of the Sodir drops and we use the Profile much more. I'm not sure I can, either, I just haven't prioritized the time to do those kinds of comparisons. What I do personally believe is this, a good cook can cook well on anything halfway decent and I don't think good cooks need more than prosumer type capabilities. But, as far as what I've observed or quantified, I really can just speak about the Profile, and I've written about it in other posts: when Rosengarten, that once interesting television host and now annoying newsletter pitch man, did a review of a bunch of very high end stoves--he listed the exact Consumer Reports-like tests he did in order to try to compare performance objectively--like timing how long it took to boil x amount of cold water in a y quart stainless steel stockpot, covered, on their power burner. So I did them on a lark with our Profile--which was too inexpensive to be in the group Rosengarten tested--and which my wife had already bought anyway based on looks, the big convection oven, the continuous grates and the great deal she got. It kicked butt over most of the high end stuff four times the price. I haven't once wished I had more heat output--but then we're pastry chefs and tend not to flame and flare stuff up, even when we cook food--and we don't wok/stir fry. If you do that a lot, maybe you would prefer one of those higher end cooktops that have a power burner with a reversible metal grate--the kind the you flip over and is curved to cradle your wok. That might be a worthy upscale in terms of safety and performance. But in general, my sense for home cooks would be spend more for looks and perception, not because you'll gain such clear performance differences. That's where looking at a lot of their display kitchens helps, you see how they do it--most of the time it seems they pad widthwise with cover panels, or cut strips from cover panels--and you can decide if that is worth it to you. I've disliked most of the attempts at this that their installers have done, just fyi. I tend not to like the complete built-in look anyway, I dislike toekicks, so I don't bother or have designed around it. I've seen their matching molding used to give a more framed, more built-in look, above the cabinets as well--but for me, the most I'll do is frame a cabinet with an edge of thin cover panel above and below, flush with the door and side cover panel. I also don't make any attempt to hide the under-cabinet lights, but that can be done as well with squared off strips of molding.
  21. so much depends on budget and determining priorities--and what you value or "yearn" for--whether you go pro, pro-style, pretend pro, whatever, and while I'm late to this thread, I think you're doing a great job revealing your thought process behind all this Melissa. Whether you go IKEA I think will depend mainly on whether you can do most of it yourself--aside from plumbing/electrical/drywall etc--whether you find value in doing most of it yourself--and with a handy husband, seems a no brainer for you to give serious consideration to that option. I mean, you're going through all the right motions, intellectually, but don't you already kind of feel you're gonna go IKEA and use what you save by doing the work yourself to upgrade/upscale other aspects of the project? We did that and don't regret it. A few of your oven/stovetop concerns--a separate cooktop--if you have the space and budget, why not? But I don't think you do, and as you keep upscaling your thought about more powerful appliances, don't forget to keep considering the need for a more powerful vent/hood. The 30" x 88" IKEA oven cab is what, 90 bucks? That's cheap--a cover panel for it, if a side is exposed, is also cheap. The real expense are the doors and drawer fronts, anyway, for these types of things--and I think you'd find value having two deep drawer pullouts below your oven if you stuck one in a tall cab. But where you going to put it and not hinder countertop space? So, I feel it doesn't have to be expensive to have an oven at a usable height AND you can get some really functional storage out of it by keeping all your casseroles, trays, heavier pots and pans below in two pullout drawers--but it will require space to do so. Or course, you could also have deep wide pullouts below your freestanding cooktop as well, if you stayed with that, but again--you lose countertop space even if you went with 30" separates. A second oven? Only you can decide whether it'll be valuable. In our very small kitchen, we went with a regular freestanding range, but part of our solution was also adding a small (but commercial) freestanding electric convection oven rather than something built in--as our kitchen or needs change, it could be unplugged and moved around easily. Whether you need a second built-in oven--to hold/cook things at different temps--will depend on the kind of cook you are. I tend to adapt everything to one temp--and cook in a style where I don't need two ovens and two temps, ever, even those 2 or 3 times a year when 15 people are over. But then I tend to cook most things on the stovetop on high flame as well. Most of the time, when we use the small convection oven, it is instead of rather than in addition to the stove. "Don't know your budget" "yet want to save money"--sure sounds like IKEA candidates. It's not hard to find affordable 30" freestanding ranges with two high-heat burners in front--we lucked into one, a GE Profile, which can be had ballpark for a grand--we've cooked on one for a year and their two front burners heat quickly and well--and really, you or your husband should be able to adjust how you cook as long as you have those two kickass burners and continuous grates, as our model Profile does. If you don't want to have to adjust mentally or technique-wise, as you already realize you have options--spend a lot more money, and even then there's no guarantee you'll get burners that heat significantly faster than the Profile in real world tasks. We love ours and love how it convection-bakes, too--so clearly I tend toward kiliki's perspective on this, but I can't say with confidence that I'd feel the same way about a $500 stove. That's not to say we wouldn't also love a $4,000 stove if one were magically (and safely) installed in our space. It's just I really don't mind not having 4 or 5 equally powerful burners in our kitchen, but then our space is only 7' x 10'. Everyone's mileage on this is gonna vary--so know thyself and assess well. IKEA or not--"we liked the combination of style, quality, and price"--realize, too, most of your stuff can be shipped instead. Just determine total cost when figuring out your options with IKEA and of what else is available. So what if you need to drive five hours to New Haven and rent a truck for the trip home--there's a cost with this--in time, in inconvenience, in rental fees, just add it all in--and you'll probably still save thousands. Then figure if it's worth it overall. "In fact, one of the things that I'd wondered about was if the lack of customization options for the Ikea cabinets would make our kitchen trickier to plan or less user-friendly in the long run, especially since we're likely going to have at least two corners to deal with" ahh, only you (or you in consultation with your designer/contractor or as kiliki suggests your "design/build" firm) can make your space user-friendly because you know how you use it. What I can tell you is there's a design, thought process and installation learning curve going IKEA, but once you get over it, it can be very empowering. Unless your corners are weird IKEA can handle corners--they have two different corner cab styles, a 37" x 37" and a 49" x 25", and I like that its 37" doesn't bow out as a pentagon, but is instead an L with a double hinged door. The larger question for you will be: are you really gaining enough by putting your stove on that far wall and are you hindering your ability to deal with the corners? There are some very neat kitchens on the European IKEA websites, too, which deal with small spaces. Clearly, the value of IKEA increases if you like clean lines and DIY--but even standard IKEA stuff can be modified: we created a 15" pullout trash base cab long before IKEA even started mentioning low pullouts as an option, and there are all sorts of tricks to adapt, to get your way, to cut down cabs for an inch here or 3 there, to pull something you like from one cab and fit it into another--almost all of these elements can be ordered piecemeal. You like that single 30" wide low drawer you see in the tall oven cab--and want to put it in a regular 30" base cab instead of the two 15" wide drawers and drawer fronts the IKEA kitchen designers try to sell you and that 99.9% of their customers buy--you can. You are at a big disadvantage NOT being near a store: 1) there's undeniably a bias/cluelessness/resistance to IKEA and frameless the further you get from an IKEA store which makes it harder to overcome if you are not capable DIYers and 2) it's a lot harder for you to just run to the store to fix little things that come up or to exchange things. You have to have more patience than someone else with a store nearby--are you patient? I'm in the middle of re-modeling a kitchen for my sister, and have been to 5 IKEAs within the past week: Elizabeth, Philly, College Park, White Marsh and Potomac Mills. (Philly, at the moment, is by far the biggest, most amazing, most well-laid out, of the bunch.) I've been able to get whatever I've needed, at the spur of the moment (and saved her thousands by 1) doing it myself and 2) once we had agreed on a design, buying about 80% of her stuff from as is, acquired piecemeal in the months leading up to when I could actually do the work. Not everyone can do it this way, due to logistics, temperment or locale, and clearly that isn't an option for you.) As far as countertops, I wouldn't look at them as "the" way to save money, short or long term. I think countertops (look, feel, functionality) are vital. Do save money by not trying to have one expensive solid surface throughout--put what's good for what you're going to do, where it is needed, and at the right heights. I think it's fair to say, though, that by doing it yourself with IKEA, you'd have more money to get better countertops, better appliances, better lighting than you otherwise could at any given price point versus the designer/GC/hiring a crew to install a framed cab line for you. You might then more easily be able to cover the cost of seriously upgrading the electrical, adding that second window or second sink, etc. Staying with a regular but good 30" freestanding range might free up even more money put to better use elsewhere. You just might derive more happiness from being able to afford some of these other things instead of spending the extra $$$ on a very upscaled appliance array. Pros and cons no matter which route you take, so dream accordingly. In our own kitchen/condo remodel we went with multiple surfaces--granite, stainless and Corian, at slightly different heights for different things--and every day I use our sink side (glacier white Corian, seamless integrated sink, coved backsplash--no seams, no caulk, no grout, nothing to hide or trap dirt--and yes, at $1500 or so it was our single biggest expense and no I don't think Corian is any cheaper these days) I know we made the perfect choice for us. But then we don't have kids, or cut on it much, we don't put hot pans on it, we don't leave things soaking in the sink, and I have had to buff out a nick or scratch here and there. We have other surfaces and areas where we work as well, and we're kind of careful with the Corian--whereas we don't think twice about doing anything on or with the granite and stainless. Now, if I were planning anew, would I at least consider the whitest Zodiaq/composite quartz stuff instead of what we picked, as has been mentioned? Yes, if I could get it close to the same price (and these prices are really gonna vary by color and depending where you live) and if I felt I would be diligent about cleaning the seam of an undermount sink and along the flush right angle edge of a backsplash piece. A lot of people who have had both Corian and st. st. sinks prefer the stainless for long term durability. All I can tell you is the Zodiaq that I've started to see around, is sweet, functionally and practically superior to Corian, granite and marble, if not also aesthetically superior--but that's gonna be very personal anyway. I do like the soft matte quality of the glacier white Corian, and you're right, it's much warmer to the touch than granite, a plus in my book. We picked up remnant granite cheap--a nice thick 34" to 36" by 26" piece that long is enough of a worksurface for any baker and can sit atop a 30"-36" base cab or island end. Laminate is fine--I don't have that much experience working on it, but we do have two pieces of IKEA Numerar laminate extending out of our kitchen space, very strong, very nice--your color options are limited, but stone effect cream and aluminum effect gray worked well for us since all our other stuff was stainless, aluminum, red Abstrakt and glass. Don't overlook wood/butcherblock as an inexpensive alternative (IKEA Numerar or Pronomen) we don't have any of it--the only wood we have is a pizza peel that we tuck away--but I'm using Pronomen Birch right now in my sister's remodel, it's inexpensive (discontinued to boot, so even cheaper than usual--I picked up two 57" long x 26" pieces, new in box, for $10 each last week) and great if you like its look. She did. Quick IKEA lighting comment--we, too, have a Cittra in a small anteway--29 bucks and a lot of light--it's above shelves, a mirror, a wall-mounted pantry and white marble tile floor--and I also like how you can angle a spot here or there. Depending on how much light you need in your kitchen, Melissa, you might consider the Magnesium instead--twice the price but with it you can do a much better job angling and focusing light around where you'd stand and probably direct it onto your surfaces, wall or backsplash easier, because you can curve it any which way, you can even wall mount rather than ceiling mount, not that I would. I just put this in my sister's kitchen, she was a little apprehensive at first--she's more country than contemporary--but she loved it once up and it works so well she's now thinking she wants a second one up. Very cool and functional for the price--and it just might help you light in and around both of your corners. You have to be able to drill multiple holes in the ceiling, though--and like with everything, curvilinear gray and clear plastic is not necessarily the right look. Quick floorplan comments: --love the dedicated baking area--it's just I (personally) dislike the look of those upper corner cabs in general, and, like you, feel strange about the imbalance of just that one corner cab not a matched set. Straight runs of wall cabs on both sides right to the stove wall? --asymmetric stove--ok, I have my doubts about the stove on that back wall improving things, symmetric or otherwise. I think I'd rather see that whole wall as prep/worksurface: countertop with wall cabinets above, drawers and pull out storage below wrapping around to include your baking corner--IF there was room to put the stove along the sink wall instead. Why? A 12" or 15" base cab right next to your baking counter--with say 3-5 pullout drawers--might in theory be very nice for tips, molds, tools, brushes, cutters, all the sorts of things pastry cooks/bakers need to have at hand--you don't need 'em often, but it's nice having it all right there. Narrow drawers might be easier to keep organized. You might even decide NOT to put a door/drawer front on--leave all the drawers visible with false fronts--and attach strips of trim or molding to cover up the cabinet frame and coordinate with your door color. Instead of drawers, this 12"/15" could also be a pullout trash dedicated to your baking station--take a half step back--pull out the trash--clean off your counter right into the trash--close trash. Both seem a little awkward to me, though. Matching narrow vertical storage slots on both sides of the stove would allow you to store all your flat things vertically--cutting boards, marbles, sheet trays, pizza peel, wire racks--it might allow you to slide a folding step-stool out of the way--then the oven would be centered and you'd have balance, but then you'd also have to decide how to handle that L turns of the countertops. Another concern will be how does putting the oven against that wall affect the usability of your baking area--something you obviously care about. Given that that baking corner will be "your" corner, you can surmise best how you'll work there, what personal pivot, ballet and stretch you'll go through--so you'll have to measure 25" out from either wall, stand in there, simulate what it'll be like. If you stay with this latest schematic, you'll probably get the most use out of a 37" base corner cab in that corner but with a 49" base corner cab on the sink side, my concern would be there may not be enough clearance to open it's drawer or door with your stove right there. There may not be enough space even pushed 7" further away--I think the door/drawer opening of that cab is 21"--you'll have to figure out the angle based on how far your new stove sticks out from the wall. You may have to pull the 49" out from the wall a few inches for clearance and cut a slightly longer side panel. --if not wall cabs and if not an exhaust hood yet, perhaps just a stainless shelf or two above the stove on that wall I was also just thinking how amazing that old floor tile--done with small glass tiles--would make as a backsplash behind your stove willing to share? (edited to try to be a little more specific, once I read p.1-SK)
  22. Does that place have a tentative name yet Siren? will do, CSASphinx, already planned to, I was really impressed with their brunch. Have you e-mailed Corry to let him know you'd support him changing things around more? Much the same could be said of DC and many, many other cities. I think it's the nature of food--in the case of 555 maybe location plays a part--it's up off the waterfront and may have to play more to locals. That said, there is an advantage to not changing much of the menu when you are a neighborhood restaurant--it helps you keep costs down, there's less waste, ordering is easier and it's easier to train your staff in terms of what they have to do, repetitively, day in and day out. You might even be able to take an actual day off, play with the kids, sleep. If the customer base you're tapping into stays loyal, it's win-win--the thing is, there's a downside: this same customer base that has had the grilled caesar 10 times will know when it comes out sub-par. If that base hopes for more and searches elsewhere, and a chef is self-aware and self-critical, he'll realize why and adapt. Me, if I lived in Portland, I'd willingly return for that same simple perfect hangar again and again. But yes, I too would kind of slot it (and the chef) in that "I know what I'm gonna get" category and it might eventually prevent me from returning more often. But I frequent a few places that tend toward the safe and conservative--MOST places in DC are safe and conservative--and I actually don't want them to stretch, I don't want them to try to challenge, I want their perfect hangar: they do what they do well, and I can appreciate them for that. Not saying that's the case with 555, I obviously haven't been there enough to know, I'm just saying there may be good reasons to hope a restaurant doesn't step outside itself--as long as it doesn't also start to mail it in. I also haven't had really good blueberries yet, the stuff we get in DC from New Jersey and Michigan have disappointed. So I'm hopeful you have better luck locally. I remain really excited for everyone up there in Portland, I think the volume of reports on this thread (and over time on eG) confirm something good is going on and I can't wait to come back up.
  23. I just realized I never actually posted back about our meals, but the whole time I was at Hugo's I thought about how you should be working there, Siren, even if only on your day off, because if you are in food, and hope to continue to make a career of it, you need to see what this place is doing--it's interesting, full of finesse, and its experiments with flavor, which might seem contrived or calculated on paper, actually work, all of them. I think they've gotten better, even with Chef Evans positioning himself as more edgy and eclectic, they've remedied the few minor concerns I had from the last time I was there--the main one being improving their dessert program, and frankly you'd have to say Hugo's rivals the best restaurants in the country now. (I had written on eG previously that it just might have become the most interesting restaurant in New England, pulling even with Clio.) I can't wait to go back in August, when I'll again be visiting the culinary wasteland known as the White Mountain Valley. Everyone posting here either living in Portland or planning a trip to Portland, I hope you realize how lucky you are: Portland, already a dynamic scene, is still on the upswing, it hasn't reached anywhere near its full potential yet, there's this hip, edgy vibe that blends well with the tourists and the shopping and yet ties in the older neighborhoods--and that doesn't happen everywhere. This visit, it struck me there was a lot more development going on over on the East side near Hugo's--I wandered by a new bakery/patisserie space, not officially opened yet, maybe called Fat Cats--my memory now is really weak--but I think they sold some pies at Standard Baking. Going east down the Hugo's street there was this stuck-in-time Italian grocery--Grimaldis or Grucini or ? (a little help here...) I hadn't noticed before and a BBQ place and Ribollita and Duckat, which we did not get to go to after all for their fries--I misread when they opened and just couldn't wait an hour. This is going to be a happening culinary scene, a nice mix of old and new, high and low. And you can park right out front. Also, I noticed a few other changes down in the touristy waterfront: wasn't Mim's once a tapas bar--and now it's a brasserie? What happened--ownership change or concept change? Has the food here ever lived up to its location? And what happened to that gem of a place: the Portland Greengrocer? It looks prettier but it's a shell of its former self in terms of depth and selection of products. Still, I like their wine buyer's taste--when I'm visiting in NH I always come over here to buy wines for the week--but so much was lost with their remodel. What we ended up doing was 555 for brunch one day and Hugo's for dinner on another. I've had so many perfunctory brunches in NH that I was determined not to have another one, so we took a gamble, and a drive, to Portland. My impression of 555? Very committed, very professional, very strong service that wasn't rushed--in a relaxed neighborhood atmosphere--I was impressed they had 4 cooks in the kitchen for brunch even though only that little area on the ground floor was open--and everything we had was perfect, especially the hangar, the grilled caesar, and a bunch of cheeses, my favorite a double cream quebec cheese. I can't recommend this place enough, it's less expensive than you'd expect, it's welcoming rather than stiff, and I'm definitely going for dinner next time. I drank a nice microbrew at this brunch but peeked at the wine list: first impression it didn't seem anywhere near as interesting or well-chosen as the Hugo's list. Back to Hugo's and Siren, sneak into there by hook or by crook for inspiration: if money is an issue, don't hold out for the full multi-course tasting: you should just go in to the bar, sit at those cafe tables along the window and spend $9 on a different single dish whenever you can, it'll be worth it for any budding cook. What didn't change from previous visits to Hugo's? Service was still superb, and very good food wines can still be had for $24 to $30 or so. What did change? I thought his plates were even more beautiful than before, it seems to me he's made more of a conscious effort to appear experimental with exotic or seemingly disparate ingredients, and while that can come off as too precious in the wrong hands, it doesn't here. He's learned his lessons well, and he's a good judge of himself: everything he and his team had on the menu holds up taste-wise. The desserts on previous visits were always weakpoints and he's straightened that out, too: all of the current desserts are excellent (and I hardly ever say that, even about my own stuff.) We had everything on this menu when we dined except the trout, and though the menu has probably changed by now, I would order everything again--and share less with others: F I R S T C O U R S E Maine Raised Rabbit Charcuterie grainy mustard mousse . pistachio . celtic vinegar. salted lavash Shiitake Mushroom Terrine locally foraged vegetables . parmesan ice cream . stinging nettle coulis Chilled Melon Soup imported prosciutto . hand dipped ricotta . grilled watermelon gelée Cold Smoked Hamachi sushi style potatoes . key lime compote . sweet soy S E C O N D Flash Fried Scottish Salmon Cake & Carpaccio cucumber & radish . cilantro emulsion . sesame Warm Asparagus & Sunnyside Duck Egg Salad white anchovy . pasta . puffed lobster cracker . orange-coriander vinaigrette Red Beet Risotto tempura pickled fiddleheads . westfield farm capri . grapefruit hibiscus soda Honey Mead Glazed Pork Belly & Baby Back Ribs rhubarb relish . cocoa nibs . chipotle emulsion T H I R D Chorizo Crusted Atlantic Halibut potato brown butter galette . multiple onion preparations Sous Vide Lamb Loin & Caramelized Shoulder savory buckwheat carrot cake . vanilla walnuts . birch essence Maple Glazed Tasmanian Sea Trout fennel & pineapple cannelloni . tomato salad . horseradish . smoked trout roe Crispy Skin Duck Breast & Slow Cooked Leg licorice stick bread pudding . bing cherry relish . orange emulsion L A S T Mita Cana Spanish Sheep’s Milk “Cheese Cake” golden graham tuile . poached grapes . tarragon syrup Rhubarb & Yogurt Panna Cotta deconstructed strawberry pie El Rey Dark Chocolate Fondant tonka bean milk shake . chocolate crisps. cherries . long pepper Foie Gras Ice Cream Float orange infused saba soda . foie gras beignet I especially liked this last dish, the foie gras in dessert concept. Liked it more than merely a concept, though, it was delicious. I'll hit Duckfat in August. Oh, another thing I was impressed with: I pulled the above menu off their website the day before we arrived, and it actually reflected what was being offered in the restaurant, with a very minor tweak here or there once the dishes were served. That demonstrates a commitment from beginning to end, and it's something that small restaurateurs sometimes overlook as they get a little fame, a little media, and begin to grow their empire. I'm happy to say that hasn't happened yet.
  24. I haven't been to that one yet, Melissa, but let us know what you think. (I have family in New Hampshire.) Hope the new catalog is in the store by then--down here they still have a ton of the 2005 kitchen brochures lying around.
  25. Tess--even given what I've written, I agree with this 100%, there are so many variables that are going to affect each choice, each decision. There are no guarantees and it's not an either-or decision--I think what I'm urging for "pastry teens" more than anything else is informed consent going in, and to develop that it takes time. How much time will depend. My college experiences 15 years later helped make me the pastry chef I am, for better and worse, and I definitely didn't appreciate my 4+ years in school, looking back, as much as I could have. I don't think that's unusual. Knowing what I know now about myself, I would've taken a slightly different track then--no Byzantine history or Renaissance poetry and instead some fine art and business--but I would still re-take all the biology, chemistry, physics and english. I would have summoned up the courage to go to France for a semester abroad when I was 20 instead of chickening out and I would have started to drink espresso and paid attention in 8am Spanish class instead of snoozing through, because I'd sure be using that to better advantage now. It's always hard to predict what you need and what you're ready for at the time.
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