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Everything posted by tomdarch

  1. Just to start, one major issue with wine "criticism" is that in reality the overwhelming majority of human beings can't consistently gauge taste. Controlled studies have been done where the same judges blind tasted the same wines repeatedly and there was a very high degree of variability in their grading from tasting to tasting. Different tasters find wildly different flavors in the same wine. We need to understand that there are serious limits to the objectivity of wine grading and criticism. That's not an inherently bad thing. Should only winemakers critique wine? No. Just because you can turn your grapes into good wine, doesn't mean that you can be useful to the general public in commenting on wine. It's entirely possible to know how to make great wine, but not have the verbal skills to communicate about it. You may be brilliant with bold red grapes, but not have the vaguest idea of what makes a great subtle, mineral white. I'm an architect, and I can usually tell when a discussion of architecture is written by a practicing architect, or an art/architectural historian or a general "critic." Each group comes at the field from a different perspective, with different limitations and interests. Ideally, we need all of them (and "just plain folks") contributing to our understanding of the field. To me, the most interesting issue you're raised is the role of wine makers in wine review. I'd like to see a lot more, I think it could be really useful to have winemakers' perspectives along side, oh say, a self-trained former lawyer - not that I'm thinking of anyone in particular... One issue, though, would be personal bias. Like all wine review, I'd like to know that the person reviewing the wine really knew very little about who/where/when the wine came from, so you're getting someone's feedback on what's in the glass.
  2. tomdarch

    Sous vide turkey

    Oh man! That (dark meat "confit") sounds fantastic. I'm surprised, though, about the cooking temp: 180F/82C. Really? Also, I have no familiarity with rendered turkey fat, so I don't know if it's particularly distinct. Would chicken fat work well as a substitute, or is the turkey fat imparting a particular flavor?
  3. paulraphael - I may have missed a link, but what are the details on the seller/items?
  4. sigh ... why doesn't stuff like this make it onto US tv?
  5. On one hand, I'm realizing that I use a pretty wide variety of implements in pots and pans, among them some very simple/cheap wooden spoons. On the other hand, reading this made me realize that there's something special about the "feel" you have for what's going on at the bottom of the pot with a simple wooden spoon. I think that the friction between the wood and the "fond" or whatever it is down there. Metal and plastic are too slippery, and, of course, silicone doesn't have the rigidity to transmit that "feel."
  6. There's a thread started for the Sous Vide Supreme here: There are a few folks saying that they're received theirs, so it will be interesting to hear what they have to say over there!
  7. Wow - US$125 does sound pretty reasonable - depending, of course, on what the wine paring is priced at. I don't know how this compares to similar dining options in NY currently, but don't forget that sometimes a higher price can attract more customers and that an excellent product at a low price will be perceived to be lower quality than it really is. On that note - I'm sure you're aware of it, but I'll say it anyway: A lot (possibly a majority?) of your customers won't care or be able to really understand/enjoy the food you serve them. They go to restaurants not because of the food but as a way to show off, to see and be seen. If you were opening in Chicago, what you put on the plate would be the primary determinant of success, but in NY and LA diners select restaurants based on "other factors." I am not saying that you shouldn't serve the best food you can. Rather, be mindful that the "ancillary" issues will probably make more of a difference to your business success - particularly in NY - media buzz.
  8. Ah - that would have helped! Sadly, our server didn't mention it. Still, I'm just not a fan of that gravy. So, note to self for future reference: try poutine again, with different gravy, and have a Cheval Blanc!
  9. Interesting - hearing about the sugar+water+acid made sense, but would result in a sour/acidic product, so the addition of baking soda clears that up. About holding the 93C temp - be careful about a dimmer - many are designed to only control a few 100W light bulbs and a heating element can be more like 1000W, which could melt the dimmer (or set it on fire). As a sous vide-er (sous vide-ie? sous vide-ite? vac-head? ) I can think of a few solutions. For most folks, a low-tech rice cooker with a Sous Vide Magic controller would be the most straight forward. You'd fill the bowl with water, then sink your cooking vessel (small sauce pan?) in the water and the Sous Vide Magic device would turn the rice cooker heating element on and off to keep the temp constant. Realistically, with a clip on thermometer in water in a big stock pot as a sort of "double boiler" with the sugar in a pan in the water should work fairly well. The more water, the easier it would be to keep a constant temp. Also, you might want to use two thermometers - one in the water and one in the sugar. As long as the process can tolerate 2-3 degrees of over and under shoot, and you have the patience to tend the stove, this sort of setup should work.
  10. tomdarch

    Confit myth

    I wonder if "steaming" in the words of the NYT writer simply means normal kitchen steaming. I wouldn't be surprised if this was "steaming" with some pressure variation to control the temperature - I'm specifically thinking low pressure to bring the temp down - essentially bagless sous vide. Oh, duh - that's cvap cooking, which Myhrvold and his team mentioned in their presentation. I'm betting that the NYT writer/editor didn't want to delve into the process of explaining the cvap oven.
  11. tomdarch

    Sous vide turkey

    Sounds like a lot of great ideas. It's the skin that raises questions for me. The thing that's coming to mind is Heston Blumenthal's Perfection episode where he deals with Pekin Duck. He separates the duck skin, ties it to a cooling rack in a way that would make Dr. Lechter proud, dries it then "bastes" it with hot oil. It looks like a spectacular, crispy end result. Essentially, I'm wondering if finishing the skin separate from the meat itself, and then simply placing the skin on top of the meat at plating might be better than trying to fuse the skin to the meat and trying to crisp it together. I won't be SVing anything for the main meal this year, but I'm very tempted to buy some turkey "parts" to experiment on for future meals.
  12. I had poutine at La Banquise earlier this year - bummmer. I'm from Chicago, where we've elevated humble pizza and hot dogs to transcendent works of art (or at least pretty darn good food), so maybe my expectations of poutine at such a well known place were unrealistic. (Bourdain - why have you led me astray!?!?) The fries and toppings were fine, but the gravy was lousy. I can't quite explain what I didn't like or exactly what I would prefer... The "gravy" just seemed unlike what I'm familiar with as gravy. In general, poutine seems like a great idea, in an insane, vaguely suicidal way. I'll certainly try it again, just somewhere else...
  13. It's worth pointing out that, as far as I know, in many places servers are (or can be) paid below the minimum wage for their base pay because it's assumed they'll be tipped, and on top of that, their income tax is calculated on the assumption that they're getting tipped a some level. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) It's an absurd system, but it's what is in place. But as long as the restaurant refers to it as a "gratuity" there still doesn't seem to be any basis for calling the cops, let alone anyone being arrested.
  14. Merriam-Webster definition of gratuity: " : something given voluntarily or beyond obligation usually for some service; especially : tip" When the menu says "a gratuity will be added to the check..." I take it to mean "we're going to put that on the check, but there's nothing we can do to make you pay it except twist your arm." If the restaurant menu said "a mandatory service charge of 18% will be added..." then they'd have a case. If the restaurant meant "mandatory service charge" then they had the chance to say that and they didn't. Too bad. I've never actually refused to pay such an "added to check" group gratuity, even after a horrible experience at the Boa "steakhouse" in Veags. (On top of lots of other problems, they tried to claim that a party of 18 drank 34 1-liter bottles of Fiji water, when 4 us were drinking tap, and others only drank their beer/wine - bulls*@$.) It wasn't as bad as the folks in the story describe, but it was bad. I was pushing to directly cash tip the busboys and the "assistant" servers who actually all did a fine job, and refuse to pay any gratuity for the jerk/idiot who was our "main" server. Sadly, the group as a whole didn't show much spine, despite all of us being pissed off (Not to mention disappointed in the food - they may be fine in the LA/LV market where see-and-be-seen is the goal, but in Chicago, where actual food quality rules, they would fail miserably at half the price.)
  15. Duh! Yep, I was thinking of evaporated milk as the non-sweetened version! Hmmm.. So at a buck a piece, that's in the range of US$5-6 per pound. That's on the same order of magnitude as a decent price here (I paid US$8 per pound, plus shipping)
  16. tomdarch

    Dinner! 2009

    Sorry, no photos, but I sort of stumbled on a nice paring last night. I made roasted/pureed parsnips and a blue cheese souffle. When I was grating nutmeg into the souffle, after having grated some into the parsnips, I realized I might be onto something. I wouldn't say these were mind-bogglingly synergistic, but they were really good on their own, and worked well together.
  17. Thanks for the encouragement on marmalade. I was pretty keen on doing that, but then I got sidetracked on all the canning gizmos and trying to figure out what type of pectin to use, etc. I haven't made marmalade before, and I haven't done much jam canning, so one issue I'm not sure on is quantity of juice. I'm going to be working from a lemon or orange recipe, and yuzu will produce a lot less juice - I guess I'll just go with whatever I can get out of the fruit, but does anyone have any suggestions or warnings on this versus standard lemon/orange base recipes? I've had a few different yuzu dishes, but the first and most memorable was a yuzu creme brulee. I've done orange (and cardamom!) creme brulee several times, but to adapt that to yuzu, I'll be looking for that special "brightness" to come through. That may involve some citric acid, but I'm thinking I may also try infusing the sugar for the crust with zest. Also, thanks for the link to the "cheesecake". On one hand, I'm from Chicago, so I would never call that a "cheesecake" ("real" cheesecake has cream cheese and eggs (puff chest in mock affront and make tisking sounds!)). On the other hand, that looks delicious and easy, so I'm totally going to make it, but call it a different name. I'm guessing by the absence of sugar as an ingredient that you're using sweetened condensed milk. Also, you may want to try blind baking your crust to give more crispness and a nice hint of toasting flavors. Pre-baking may not work with digestive biscuits, but it's a nice touch with American graham cracker/butter crusts. Some recipes also add a little sugar to the graham cracker crust. Actually, I'm going to make one to "test" and probably make another for the family for Thanksgiving dinner. (There will be a pumpkin pie, of course, and a Burbon/pecan pie, so a creamy/tart pie will complement and balance the others!) By the way, how much does yuzu cost there in Tokyo?
  18. So, exactly a year later, I've got a few pounds of yuzu. The nice folks at ripetoyou.com will have them over the next month or two (they expect to have them available through the end of January) They weren't cheap when you factor in shipping, but, hey, I've been jonsing for yuzu for quite a while. If nothing else, they're making my kitchen smell great sitting on the counter. So far, I've made yuzu curd and put it in a tart crust - very nice! (Without much juice, the curd lacked acidity, so I mixed in a little citric acid. By a little I mean way less than a 1/8 teaspoon - it's strong stuff.) I'm sure that I'm going to freeze a few of them - I figure that freezing shouldn't impair my ability to get (a litle) juice and zest later. I'm not a big fan of preserved lemons, but I'll probably try it with one or two. I'm definitely going to candy some peel - it should be a fantastic Christmas treat. My first exposure to yuzu was a yuzu creme brulee (as part of a trio with subtle lavender and something else I can't remember - maybe mango?) at Green Zebra in Chicago. I'm sure I'm going to give that a shot. What else? What does yuzu pair with?
  19. How about "100% of cancer cases have been associated with the consumption of dihydrogen oxide!" ("dihydrogen" = H2, "oxide" = O --> H2O --> water!)
  20. Well, I went ahead and ordered a Vita-Prep 3 (1005), so I'll soon experience this next dimension in blending... Watching the promo video on the site where they make strawberry "ice cream" got me thinking. How close can you come to "pacotizing" with one of these? Obviously, a PacoJet can produce a much "thicker" end result, where a "blender" keeps the blades in place and the food has to be able to move around it. But I'm imagining freezing the "mix" in an ice cube tray, then "blending" it, probably with a lot of tamper-action, then re-freezing it. I already see some problems - like the fact that the re-freezing is likely to create a big, solid block, but we'll see. Maybe enough air can be incorporated to counteract that effect.
  21. Oh- another question: Has anyone ever blown a fuse/circuit breaker with either a 5000 series or a VitaPrep? My kitchen currently only has one 15 amp circuit available where I could plug this in. (I realized at some point that a VitaPrep is basically the same as a heavy duty woodworking router! Similar wattage/HP and rpm ranges - except that the VitaPrep goes to slower speeds. One turns food into slush, the other turns wood into sawdust.)
  22. Thanks for linking to that - it looks really cool, and I'm looking forward to seeing that book! But I can't resist pointing out: The quote, "Dr. Myhrvold, who once presided over Microsoft Windows..." is followed by, “It’s basically like a software project,” Dr. Myhrvold said. “It’s very much like a review we would do at Microsoft.” And then, "Originally planned as a 300-page discussion of sous vide... the book has swelled to 1,500 pages..." and "He said the book would be out in a year, although he admitted that was also what he said a year ago." Must ... resist ... cracking ... Windows ... jokes!!!!
  23. E Gads! Maybe it's the small container, maybe Martha and Paula are smaller than I think, but in that video, the base looks HUGE! After watching some of the demos on YouTube - all hosted by male chefs - in Martha's video, it looked much larger. (To comment on "NOT Good Things" - that video player on Martha's site made me want to reach through the Internets Series of Tubes and smack whomever coded it - it was awful at streaming/caching - in other words, it played for 2 seconds, then "loaded" for a few seconds, then repeated - just lousy!) On some blog or something (researching blenders like these leads one down some odd alleys of the internet into the weird world of raw foodists...), I came across an interesting comment. Evidently, there is a plastic linkage between the motor and the blades that is designed to snap if the blades jam - the "drive socket", I think? In general, this sounds like a good idea. But... the comment was that VitaMix says to not put ice into the machine, and that this sort of thing will cause the part to snap. 1) Is it correct that VitaMix advises against crushing ice in the machines? and 2)Is that just posterior-covering - has anyone here snapped their "drive socket", and how? Oh, and in the "blender stunt" category, has anyone here blended in dry ice to make ice cream?
  24. If you've got tweezers in your hands and you're plating dishes at Alinea, you're stuck plucking individual leaves.. But for adding thyme to things like omelettes where you can't bundle, I try to "smart zipper." Some tiny, soft, breakable stems get pushed to the side. Some stems, I'll hold half way down and zipper from there. Some really soft stems get ripped off and thrown into the pile. From there, I'll have a pile of mostly leaves and some soft stem-ends, which I give a coarse chop to cut up the stems. This doesn't provide perfect leaves, and does end up with some waste (the 10%-15% of leaves that are time consuming to get off), but works well for me.
  25. I've been reading Heston Blumenthal's "autobiography" in The Fat Duck Cookbook. It's making me think that "Deconstruction" is, in a strict sense, probably mis-used in contemporary cuisine (though not always), but there's a sort of "spirit" that makes the term at least a bit appropriate. I wasn't around for the birth of Derrida's Deconstruction in philosophy, but I have to infer that it blew a lot of minds (I think that would be the historically accurate term for the late 60's and early 70's ) When he pointed out problems with Philosophical arguments, such as the fact that even Socrates had to rely on the concept of writing as the foundation for his argument as to why speech is "better" than writing, Derrida shook up that profession. Similarly, a bunch of things happened as food science and cultural globalization rattled the foundations of "classical" cuisine. Blumenthal mentions how Harold McGee's observation that searing does not seal in meat juices called into question many "laws" of classical cooking. I think that there has been a spirit of ripping things apart, as far down to their foundations as current chefs can get, and building up new dishes from those insights into the underlying structures (food science, flavor parings, etc). In that sense, we're not completely off base talking about some sort of "deconstruction" and contemporary cuisine. This may be a bit off topic, but it brings me to a concern I've been thinking about for a while. Novelty seems to be a critical component of what Adria, Blumenthal, Achatz, et al are doing. There's the expectation that dining at one of these "great" restaurants will be a "revelatory" experience. That can't go on forever.
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