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    Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  1. OK, I've been here for 3 months now, and there seems to be no sign of rapini (aka broccoli rabe, aka italian broccoli) whatsoever. I would have thought that there would be, with such a large and visible Italian population. Whenever I ask anybody about it, I just get a blank stare, like nobody has even heard of it. So what's the story? Is rapini simply not grown here? This would be a disaster!
  2. Last week my wife and I ate at Guu with Garlic in Vancouver. It was QUITE noisy, but in a boisterous, fun way. As the patrons order the server will belt out the name of the dish in Japanese, answered in the kitchen. The entire staff enthusiastically greets and says farewell in Japanese whenever anybody enters or leaves the restaurant, and the entire sense of the place is that the staff is actually enjoying as much or more than the customers. Remember the "Cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger" sketch from SNL? Kind of like that, only with cute Japanese waitresses. We definitely plan on going back there ASAP.
  3. The owner's brother thought I was Italian.... Nope! Just a skinny white canadian kid, who paid attention when his Italian mentor taught him how to cook pasta.
  4. I don't know who was being quoted but a sous chef I once worked under explained that the stock should be "smiling, not laughing" and have loved and used that adage ever since.
  5. Ho boy, this is so much fun. It's been too long since I did a supper like this. I, too, chronicled my trials and tribulations on livejournal It's amazing how much easier it is to accomplish this sort of food at a restaurant. Not least of which is because you have a person who's job it is to wash all your dishes. Oh, and a high powered machine which does so in 90 seconds. There is something satisfying about inviting your friends over and then wowing them with your prowess though, to be sure. I'm excited to read more, and see pictures of how it turns out. Edit: Ah yes, this is the LJ post in particular that your ambitious meal reminds me of. What a day that was.
  6. I often think of this old thread. Truly, it is a classic to be remembered. I ate some delicious bacon today and realised this truth: There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love bacon, and those who are lying to themselves. Wow... what a bump though, eh? 4 years ago! Sheesh!
  7. I'm glad somebody said rags, because that is what everybody calls them in Halifax. We definitely have had some rag hoarders where I work. Three of them, in fact, and they all just quit. I wonder if we'll ever find all their stashes? Anyway, here's a question for all you science minded folk: Why does a wet rag conduct heat when a dry rag doesn't? Water has such a high capacity for heat, you would think that it wouldn't make a rag a worse insulator. But we've all been burned by a rag we didn't realise was wet, so obviously something is wonky. Any ideas?
  8. How does one get crunchy spaghettini from fresh pasta? Simple! Dry it first! But are you prepared to take that secret to the grave? Seriously though, I feel a bit dumb now. But haven't there always been secrets? How about this, if I ever read a recipe that uses a similar technique I will post that recipe without hesitation. ... I can't seem to come up with a google search that is useful either. Sorry, but I promised.
  9. This seems like a neat idea. How on earth would you get such a gig? I can't think of a single person I know who employs a private chef....
  10. You certainly piqued my curiosity. Would you care to expand on that, if you don't consider it a trade secret? ← Unfortunately, I have been sworn to secrecy on this one. I will tell you that it involves careful control of temperature and the effect is to dramatically reduce the acidity (or at least the acid taste) of the sauce. I was instructed to keep this one to the grave.
  11. I was just now hit with a culinary lightning bolt. It came in the form of a question- a question that I think I know the answer to. The question is- Who am I? The answer is that I am what I have learned. This naturally leads to the question: What have I learned? I went to cooking school from September 1999 until May 2000. However, I am fond of telling people that I spent from February 2001 until April 2001 at a restaurant called Piccolo Mondo unlearning everything they taught me in cooking school, and from then until some time in 2004 re-learning all the basics, only Italian. While it is impossible to list what I learned from that experience, the first thing that pops into my head is pasta. Pasta with fresh tomato sauce, in particular. Sure I learned an advanced forcemeat done with braised cornish hens and prosciutto to be stuffed into Canelloni. I learned the ways of meat sauce, fish preparation, and 40 different ways to prepare veal scallopine. But in some ways, the most essential thing I learned was Spaghettini al Pomodoro Fresco. Have you ever worked with an Italian chef? When it comes to pasta, it has to be perfect. Claudio was an absolute fanatic for pasta al dente. "To the tooth" which in his world means crunchy. Is pasta so uncooked in Italy? One can only assume. I have read that one should never let a french, german or swiss chef cook your pasta. I've worked with french and german trained chefs, and I can understand why. I have been taught to cook my pasta less than any cook or chef I know. And you know what? I LIKE it that way. Use heavily salted water. Not the "ocean" of Thomas Keller, but you should be able to just taste the salt if you dip your finger in it. Never. Ever. EVER. Rinse your pasta in cold running water. Guess what- in this unfortunate city almost everybody does. What they don't know is that is doubly wrong. You are rinsing off starch from the pasta which not only helps sauce to adhere, but also tastes good. Most chefs don't seem to realise that pasta has a taste of its own- when it is cooked properly, this taste is not only delicious, but a tribute to your skill as a chef. Use good olive oil. Always. Not just for salad dressing (although some "chefs" in this city use crap pomace oil even for raw applications, i don't understand how they aren't out of business) The usual argument goes- "if i heat the oil, it loses its fragile, fragrant components, therefore if I start with a cheap blended olive oil it won't make a difference." WRONG! This is a case of GIGO - Garbage in, Garbage out. If you start with crap olive oil it actually gets worse, whereas if you start with something nice, the flavour of the oil shines through the entire process. So please, piss off with your Carapelli, your Bertolli, ESPECIALLY fucking Colavita- UGH! Lets all do better, shall we? Anyway, my revelation is that I want to see if I can incorporate some of the techinques and recipes that I learned at piccolo mondo into a more advanced tasting menu. In particular, I thought that it would be nice to present one bite each of three different preparations of spaghettini al pomodoro fresco. Here's the basic technique: 1 tbsp brunoise garlic clove 1/4 tsp crushed red chili flakes 1 oz EVOO The size of the garlic clove is very very important. Any smaller than brunoise will make it impossible to get the appropriate flavour. Sautee these ingredients on medium high until the garlic is a deep golden colour- well roasted, almost burned, then immediately add 3-4 oz tomato chopped in 1/2" dice It is important to keep the seeds, juice, skin and all the innards of the tomato in as well. It is good to season your sauce now. Allow this to fry for about 20 seconds, and then add 4 oz broth 6-8 leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn use a light chicken stock, or else vegetable broth. Allow this to reduce until a suitable thickness. Now toss in freshly cooked pasta, or pre-cooked pasta that you have heated up in a salted 200 degree water bath. Add shaved Parmigiano reggiano and you're done. Ooh I almost forgot- make sure that you have a warmed, stainless steel bowl to combine the pasta and sauce. Never use the pan you've made the sauce in. This sounds like SUCH a simple dish because it really really is. But is the exact specicifity of how you have to produce it that makes it really stick in my mind. To me, it is not anymore a test of my ability- but that it is a test of those that I prepare it for. I have prepared this dish for chefs and gourmets, and the response I get is curious. A small percentage of the people I serve this for actually recognise the perfection, the art that it is. Unfortunately, the majority seems to eat without even pausing to taste. Pausing to identify the harmony and balance of tastes, of textures. To appreciate the tradition that it represents. Done correctly, this dish is the best. Now, how can we improve on perfection? Well, the answer is, I also learned about 30 other tomato sauces from Claudio, including one very curious one that relies on an interesting property of tomatoes that doesn't seem to be mentioned in my McGee. Since I left Piccolo Mondo in the fall of 2004, I have wandered from kitchen to kitchen, and really bootstrapped in a lot of ways. In the past two years, I've worked for the two most advanced restaurants in Halifax - Fid under Dennis Johnston, and the Prince George under Ray Bear, and have discovered a whole new world of cuisine outside my very sheltered mediterranean training. This has been a very confusing time for me. It has been a real struggle to try and learn new techniques, new ingredients, and basically try and fill in the pieces that have been missing from my training. Along the way, I've had to ask myself- why was my education at Piccolo Mondo so incomplete? Reading the foodblog gastroville has been helpful. I think that the author of that blog shares with my former chef much of the same sensibility. Just as a test, a few weeks ago I asked Claudio what he thought of San Remo shrimps. Clearly he agrees with Gastroville of their value. But why didn't he teach me this sort of thing? I think that the answer is unfortunate, for me, for him, and for Halifax. This is a man who is defeated. Maybe he tried to have a truely fine dining restaurant away from the mediteranean once before and failed, or who knows? But the result is that he doesn't even try any more. Sure, he taught me the proper way to do some things, but why bother teach me how to identify San Remo shrimps when the only shrimps available come frozen in blocks from thailand or vietnam? In a city where the most expensive restaurant charges only 30-35 canadian for its most expensive dishes, then no wonder I didn't find out when white truffle season was until very recently. I've still only ever seen one, working at the Prince George. So now I find myself with half (if that much) a mediterranean education, an aborted french training, a thirst for knowledge about the newest techniques (methocel? transglutaminase? what!) and a just-paying-the-bills job at a restaurant that is only about one notch past stale. I've been at it for 6 years now. I need an identity. I wonder if it is time to stage...
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