Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by tomdarch

  1. Wow - I haven't seen a marble stall divider in person in a while. As an architect, I can't imagine specifying marble dividers today (unless I was designing for Donald Trump, which isn't going to happen, regardless) Now that I think about it, it does make sense for the application - before modern plastic laminate and enamel/epoxy coated steel dividers became available. As long as the surface of the "reclaimed" marble isn't too scratched, it should be quite cleanable. Watch out for scratches and naturally occurring cracks, holes and pockets, as pathogens can get lodged in there. If you're having a countertop installer cut it for you, ask if they can grind/polish a fresh surface for you, that should give you a "clean slate" to work from! (I'm so punny! ) If you go with a marble floor/wall tile, ask at the store if there is a sealant already on the stone - it's good that it's sealed, but the actual sealant chemicals almost certainly aren't "food safe." As for counter scrap and sink cut outs - those countertop guys should be pretty desperate - the "good old days" of the housing bubble are long gone. Don't just ask about sink cut outs - slabs crack, get dropped, orders are canceled, etc. There are a variety of scraps that could work. I assume that for chocolate in smaller quantities, it could be thin, but for working with good quantities of dough, you would want more thermal mass from a thicker slab. What would be the thinnest slab that should work?
  2. Poached quince worked well: 85C for ~60 minutes. These were "well done" - I had poached quince with a salad (at Blueduck in DC) that was a bit more firm, and I may try shorter cooking time to get that "medium" texture. The first quince I just peeled/cored/sliced and "poached" straight in the bag to really get at what the qunice was like on its own (very apple like, but with a very nice "something extra" that I can't quite explain - vaguely floral, maybe?) The second one I did, I peeled/cored/sliced and bagged with about 1 teaspoon of honey, and tiny bits of flavoring: 1 juniper berry, crushed, half a Thai long pepper corn, crushed and 2 cassia buds, crushed. I went with the tiny amounts, because of the "magnification" effect of flavorings in the bag - but the tiny amounts I used were too small and I didn't detect any resulting flavor in the quince. I've got more quince, so I'll try again with more of the flavorings. (These are some obscure spices I got for Alinea dishes from The Spice House in Chicago - I don't know yet if they work well with the quince, but they smelled nice going into the bag.)
  3. So far, I've only spent a few hours with the book (the "small" one). I'm really enjoying reading Heston's story. The reference in the back is also looking great - better explanations of what some of these wacky ingredients are and how they work, but essays about "food science" look to be great stuff (and are largely what pushed me over the edge to buy the book) On the other hand, I'm looking at the recipes and I'm not really excited. I'm happy to admit that as a Chicagoan, I have an irrational bias in favor of anything Chicago, but I don't think that explains why I like the recipe side of the Alinea cookbook more that what I've looked over in the Fat Duck book. I haven't tried the crazy 20 component "Tomato" dish (or similar) from Alinea, but I've made a bunch of the simpler dishes, and really enjoyed it. So far, the only Fat Duck dish that I'm excited about is the carrot+beet gells. I've looked through Jan's blog, and that's helping - the mustard ice cream and cabbage gazpacho looks interesting! I'm certainly not unhappy with the book so far, I just don't think I'll do a lot of dishes from the recipes, unfortunately.
  4. tomdarch


    I forgot that I had ordered some Ultra-Tex 3, and found it yesterday, so I decided to play around with it. First up was (after discovering that my blender had conked out) "cornstarch" chocolate pudding. About 500g milk, some sugar and cocoa powder (forgot to write down amounts). I added the Ultra-Tex a few grams at a time and blended with a hand immersion blender. After about 15g, I realized that the milk was very cold, so I gave the mix 2 runs in the microwave of 30 seconds to bring it from cold to luke-warm. That didn't seem to have an effect on thickening. I kept adding Ultra-Tex in 5g amounts. At 25g there was noticeable thickening. I stopped at 30g because I could hear that my small immersion blender was straining. The result was a bit thinner than I would like for a pudding, but it's acceptable. I didn't notice a specific taste from the Ultra-Tex, but the overall taste was a bit different from the stove-top/cornstarch version, possibly because the milk is not heated/scalded. My other experiment was thickening 150g of room temperature soy sauce. I put in a bit at a time and around 9g, I had a nicely thickened "sauce". It wasn't so thick that it would "stand up" or form peaks, but dripped and spread on a plate, it had enough body to stay in place. As for taste - no so great - not because of the Ultra-Tex, but because a mouthful of soy sauce is a bit too much.
  5. So far I've heard almost no actual debate in the ongoing so-called "healthcare debate" - the set of issues is so complex that very few of us grasp enough of the details and issues to be able to develop a truly informed opinion. This strikes me as a potentially very interesting way to get at the issue - how will some of these proposed reforms effect one particular industry? From the little bit I understand about how the majority of "restaurants" operate, it may be very difficult on them. They seem to be structured on a reliance on very low paid labor with few or no "benefits", including the interesting exemption of servers from minimum wage laws. I should say that I am not involved in the restaurant industry, other than being a frequent patron! In the abstract, I am quite willing to pay somewhat more for my meals in exchange for both the moral/ethical benefit of knowing that the people working there have access to basic health services and the very practical benefit of reducing the probability that the person prepping my salad ingredients is coughing up some infectious disease because he can't afford antibiotics or the doctor visit to get the prescription in the first place. But, how much more might I be charged? That's very difficult to predict. This low-pay structure will probably benefit some restaurants. If we're using the current House bill (HR 3962) as the basis for discussing "Healthcare Reform", then there are a set of exemptions for small businesses. These exemptions start for businesses with annual payrolls of less than $750,000. That would seem to allow for a lot of sub-minimum wage servers and low paid dishwashers. (not to mention the fact that some restaurants pay folks in, er, "creative" ways that would further reduce their "official" payrolls). I'm not expert enough to find the exact exemptions in the current HR 3962, but in previous versions, many (possibly most) small businesses were entirely exempt from the requirement to provide employer-based health insurance for their employees. Nice for the restaurant, but that situation would simply shift the mandate to the low-paid employees themselves. I can't say for sure, but my understanding is that most mom-and-pop places and small diners would have no direct effect from HR 3962, other than that the owners themselves would be required to have health insurance. It's the big restaurants with better paid staffs that would be directly impacted by a mandate for employer-provided insurance - but some of them are already effected by currently existing federal and state requirements precisely because of their large staffs and/or large payrolls. (as an aside, this is a huge, complicated bill. But after hearing the ever-growing page counts (1900! 2000! 2040! 8 bajillion pages! "Ahahahahaha!" says the Count!) I was surprised to see exactly why there are so many pages - the official format is one narrow column of text on each page, sometimes indented, with only about 5 to 10 words per line. Also, if I understand correctly, only part of the bill is "new legislation" - there seem to be big chunks that clarify how this bill supersedes or amends other pre-existing legislation.) Here's HR 3962 in all it's sausage-y glory: http://docs.house.gov/rules/health/111_ahcaa.pdf Another question: What portion of restaurant workers qualify for their state's Medicaid program? I think that HR 3962 expands the Medicaid program, which could cover some low-paid restaurant employees.
  6. Right now I can't think of a specific disappointment - I'm sure there are a few, but they're buried on a bookshelf and forgotten. I am glad that I looked through "The Flavor Bible" rather than just ordering it online. I'm also glad that I unwrapped a copy of "Under Pressure" at the bookstore and looked through it. I now have an immersion circulator, but a lot of the non-meat dishes I'm interested in require a serious chamber vacuum machine for the ironically named "compressions". Very interesting, but technically not feasible for me. I can totally see how actually most home cooks wouldn't like the Alinea book. (Actually, I can see how a lot of professional cooks also wouldn't care for it.) It's full tilt and an unfamiliar approach to food. (That said, I think almost everyone would enjoy the cheese filled crackers, but that's one preparation out of the whole book...) Being here in Chicago, I can get obscure ingredients from the same sources ChefG does, like The Spice House. Also, without blogs like Alineaphile and AlineaAtHome, I wouldn't be as successful as I have been at working from the simplest dishes up the complexity ladder. But there are a few "dishes" I'm sure I will never attempt, because they really need a full team of 4 to 6 people to prepare and plate.
  7. Wow - following a round with diluted bleach at 85C, I rinsed the unit - someone warned that bleach+vinegar can produce a nasty byproduct. Then did a round of diluted vinegar at 88C (I'm also inching the temp up to see that the unit is working properly). Man - whatever the coating of crud was that I was scrubbing off earlier today, it came right off - the heater coil is nice and shiny and the black plastic which used to have a film, now isn't exactly "shiny" and new, but clearly doesn't have a coating on it. I did a round with water, and now I'm doing a second round with vinegar and pushing the temp up to 90C. I've already wiped the non-submerged parts of the device with bleach based wipes. I'll finish up with an overall wipedown with alcohol, and some more rounds of water. So far, so good. (In hindsight, I'm bummed that I spent so long scrubbing when the hot vinegar round really took the gunk off.)
  8. Woo! Thanks to the "Investment Recovery" department of my friendly, neighborhood global pharma/chem corporation, I am now the proud owner of a slightly cracked, slightly gunky immersion circulator! I fired it up when I got it home - no problem. I spent an hour or so cleaning gunk off of it - I'm assuming that this crust of gunk means it was used in an oil bath, rather than a water bath. It's an impressive crust, but I'm getting it pretty clean. One side effect of the vigorous cleaning is that when I fired it up a few minutes ago, the pump complained - I think it was complaining that the motor was working too hard - it would either fire up to full power (5 out of 5 levels of pump intensity) or stall, and would beep it's error code either way. After a few rounds of starting it up, hearing the error code, turning it off and letting it sit, it's now running fine, "humming" away at the lowest pump setting. Next up is running it with bleach, then an alchohol rubdown, then a finish with vinegar. This is per a discussion here, and elsewhere on the web. So ... what to make with it? I eat meat, but it rarely knocks my socks off. (pun intended!) I will do some pork/beef/chicken ... especially pork, soon enough. But I'm really interested in doing eggs, veggies and fruit. I've got two quince sitting in my kitchen, so I'm thinking of trying "poaching" them. From what I've heard, quince smell fantastic while you're poaching them, but lots of that flavor/scent is lost in the process, and the end result on the plate lacks much of that flavor - this sounds like a perfect application of sous vide. The Alinea cookbook has a crabapple preparation where the crabapples are cooked at 88C for an hour - any comments or suggestions?
  9. I've got the .5L Gourmet Whip, but I do make whipped cream with it occasionally (it's actually in the fridge with cream in it now.) I don't know if you'll care, but I've used it to make soda water with the CO2 cartridges, and at some point I should try "fizzy fruit".
  10. My guess is that he's well aware of sous vide, but that he won't really address it on his show. Anyone who's seen a few Good Eats will know exactly why: lawyers! I'll be interested to see how the Sous Vide Supreme folks explain to end users how to not give themselves gastrointestinal botox "treatments". The obvious way is to recommend higher temperatures for longer times.
  11. Now that I've got a lead on an immersion circulator, I'm looking to upgrade my bagging option. Some of the discussion of vac sealing options refer to models that have been discontinued for quite a while... So, I'm upgrading from the Reynolds handheld pump, but I'm certainly not going for a chamber system. I'm probably looking at a foodsaver model - but which one? (of the currently available models) are there other good options in the us$100 to us$300 range?
  12. This is a realm of physics and math that I've never directly dealt with, but... if I understand correctly, heat transfer is a function of temperature differential. (At least that's how we treat it designing buildings.) As the temperature differential approaches zero, the rate of heat transfer would approach zero. Just looking at your initial problem statement, I see an issue that might be causing perfectly good equations to throw weird results - if you're trying to find out how long it takes for the core temperature to come up to equal to the surrounding temperature, then any normal equation should result in infinity (or close to it), right? Lots of equations "misbehave" in this situation. Have you tried solving for an ambient temp of, say, 510 or 520 and a target core temp of, say, 490 or 480? In other words, try a target temp that is less than the ambient temp. I hope I'm being helpful and not a smarta@@!
  13. Ditto on the Smarties! (and not those UK "smarties" totally different...)
  14. That's about the best two sentence description of deconstruction, in the literary theoretical sense, I've ever read. And, as someone with a PhD in cultural studies, I've read a lot of descriptions of deconstruction. Wow - thanks! I think it sounded good because I left out a lot of important aspects or facets of what Derrida dealt with (personally, breaking down our hierarchical dualities was the most useful to me) David does a good job of getting at the real core, and makes a great point about our expectations and the role language plays with that.
  15. Oh man ... "deconstruction" as a massive, messy can of worms. I'm an architect, and we went through this discussion in the late 80s through the 90s. To get at the root of this whole thing, you need to look at Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher who pretty much coined the term "deconstruction." You'll note, I didn't say to try to read his stuff - it's, er, challenging, to put it mildly. I'm oversimplifying it, but basically, he realized that a lot of philosophical arguments are internally self contradictory. When you carefully "deconstruct" the argument and how it is written out, you'll often see that the words and ideas that a philosopher needs to use to argue some point, actually undermine the overt argument. That's great for philosophers (actually, it's a serious problem for them), but what does it matter to the rest of us? In a strict sense, probably not much - when philosophically minded architects picked up on this, Derrida himself expressed a lot of skepticism - to him "Deconstruction" was a technique for examining philosophical arguments. The thing that was most useful to non-philosophers was that "deconstruction" invited us to examine the underlying structure of what we were doing - often challenging the taken-for-granted elements and assumptions that went into making something. Sometimes, this produced really interesting, revelatory results. Often, it was just an excuse to "blow stuff up" and create big jumbles. Aesthetically, that could be fine, if that's what you're into. A few people tried to differentiate between the more intellectual "Deconstruction" and the more stylistic "decon" stuff. During that initial "Deconstruction" wave, there were some lousy, leaky buildings built, fashion designers were charging thousands of dollars for garments that were a few pieces of oddly cut fabric, partially sewn together with loose threads hanging off, and mediocre linguistics professors were claiming that no one could ever actually understand what anyone else meant. So sure, there are probably bone heads out there serving separate piles of ingredients and calling it a "deconstructed" dish, but at best, they're missing the point. It's probably nearly impossible to strictly apply Derrida's Deconstruction to actual cooking, but you can get a bit of the underlying "spirit" sometimes. This would mean something more like taking a traditional, complex dish and splitting it into two or three components, hopefully each delicious on their own, so that when the diner eats the separate components, they understand something new about the traditional dish as a whole. Hopefully, this is done in an in-obvious way, just propping some blind-baked pastry on top of a ladle of stew and calling "deconstructed pot pie" would certainly be missing the point. In the end, though, you can waste a lot of time arguing the semantics and not get anywhere.
  16. Also, your sis should be careful to define "vegetarian." I don't know what the current cultural trends are in France in terms of interpreting that word. Simply saying "vegitarianne" could get you anything from vegan to fish or even chicken. If she's on the "I'll pick out the meat" side of things, that's much easier, but many veggies don't want their food to touch dead animal products. Does she mind food cooked in lard or bacon fat? What about meat/poultry/fish stock? If worst comes to worst, living on baguettes and cheeses and bananna/nutella crepes isn't so bad! (er, not that I know from personal experience... )
  17. Yeah - with a simmer burner, it seems that a different grate would be called for. I use some tiny pots - like a 1.5 qt saucier and a stainless 2 cup measuring cup for melting and heating. I like the look of the BS grates in general, but it would be nice if the simmer burner had a grate with more bars and smaller openings to support tiny pans.
  18. The deal with popcorn is that there is a little moisture sealed inside the kernel. When you heat the kernel, either in shallow oil or hot air, the water turns into steam, which makes the inside of the kernel highly pressurized, Finally, the kernel shell can't take the pressure, and it explodes. The steam puffs the starchy center, and you've got popcorn. That explosion issue is why "deep frying" un-popped popcorn without a lid would be such a very, very bad idea. Just to totally spell it out: some kernels will explode under the surface of the hot oil, that explosion will splatter significant amounts of oil out of the pot. The splattered oil will burn anyone near by, and could catch fire from whatever is heating the pot. Do some one grain tests with any grains you aren't familiar with, preferably with a lid or splatter screen between you and the oil. Somewhere out there is a grain that will behave like popcorn in oil, and if you dump a handful in, you'll get a huge eruption of hot oil. (meaning burns and/or fire). I suspect that something similar is happening with the oil puffing of uncooked grains. In the case of white rice, there is no shell, but the oil may be heating the interior of the grain so quickly, that the conversion of water to steam is fast enough to puff the hard starches. Maybe that is what's happening with the Korean street cart - the hot plate rapidly heats the grains, causing the rapid conversion to steam.
  19. A quick, minimally informed response: cooking veggies is quite different than cooking meats. In meats (and eggs) a lot of the "cooking" is denaturing proteins, and otherwise breaking down connective tissues. In veggie cooking, you're breaking down very different components. I'm sure that proteins play some role, but to a much lesser degree. The vegetable tissue is also the "bones" of the plant, so they are very different than animal muscle/connective tissue. I remember that pectin is one of those components, but I can't remember if it's "cook temperature" is above or below 85C. The idea is that you are breaking down some components, but leaving others in tact. I suspect that "exploding" cell walls is also a factor, but I'm not sure specifically how. There are also a complex set of chemical reactions that happen when different vegetables are cooked, and sous vide can control which of these do or don't happen. Lastly, cooking in a bag prevents a lot of flavors and nutrients from being diluted out into the cooking water. Because the "cooking" of vegetables is so complex, it makes sense that you would see different temperatures ranging from 165F/74C to 195F/90.5C. It's a question of what's in the particular veggie and what do you want to do to it? (I wish I knew exactly....) Vacuum "compression" is a whole different, and interesting, set of issues. So far, I have done potatoes and carrots (around 85C - roughly, because I was "tending" a pot on the stove) for about 45 minutes. The were roughly 1cm cubes, bagged with butter, salt and pepper. The result was definitely "cooked", and consistently cooked all the way through. But unlike fully boiled veggies, there was still a small amount of crunch. This was unlike a rapidly blanched carrot, which may be overcooked on the outside and still semi-raw in the middle. It was a good, interesting way to cook veggies, but not mind-blowing. I'm planning on trying parsnips next... Here's an article by the Ideas in Food folks about sous vide veggies: http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2009-01/shades-green
  20. I've been thinking about trying a chimney charcoal starter "jet engine" set up: get coals going white-hot in the chimney, put a grate over the "blowtorch" and briefly slap the meat on to finish. I think I saw an episode of Alton Brown where he used this to brown the exterior of a piece of otherwise raw tuna. Seems like the same principle should work for finishing many sv meats like smaller steaks.
  21. Yeah - I read Grant's post, but I totally don't get the point of sticking a flat out "sample" from Escoffier, complete with antique serviceware into the middle of the meal. It's one thing to blend some James Brown into a hip-hop track, it's another to stick an un-modified chunk of Brahms in the middle of an Aphex Twin cut. As an architect, it reminds me of some of the less successful "Neoclassical Post-Modern" work of folks like Bob Venturi were doing in the 80's. He was big into sticking traditional "geegaws" onto what were obviously "modern" buildings. It risks being more pastiche than re-interpreting the "foundations" of our thinking on a subject. I can see how Grant would include elements of Escoffier preparations as an element of a complex dish, but making a whole course directly - I don't get it. It seems that part of what is created in an extremely contemporary restaurant is an experience of being taken out of the familiar and quotidien. This is particularly true when you're eating food made with ingredients you've never heard of off of serviceware that was invented for that specific dish. Sure, it's still a restaurant, with wine in glasses and waiters bringing plates that often have meat, vegetables and sauce on them. But totally shattering the "avant garde" with a hyper-old fashioned dish just sounds jarring. Especially if the food itself isn't spectacular. I think that we get that what Grant is doing really is rooted in "classic" cooking, not some groundless mumbojumbo or pure science. It doesn't seem necessary to include a dish in this literal of a way.
  22. Thanks! What would you say is the minimum amount of chocolate to put in the container? Do you need to take any specific steps (e.g. warming the container) while spraying? Did you modify the chocolate mix for spraying from the Alinea recipe?
  23. tomdarch


    I don't actually speak French anything like fluently, so I am way out of my depth making up words in French, but the form "Chocolateuse" came to mind. Also, at lest in English, quite a few of my female friends who act for a living refer to themselves as an "actor" rather than "actress". I haven't really dug into why they prefer the masculine/neutral form to the exclusively feminine.
  24. I'd add two points to this. My soon-to-be wife is a paralegal and has worked on food-borne pathogen cases, so I've heard some grizzly details, and frustratingly nonexistent paper trails on critical items like fish for sushi. It's tough to defend your restaurateur-client when there's no evidence or records to point to. 1. Get the reference thermometer, and use it, but don't forget to log the results. For science-types, logging calibration data is just assumed, but it's pretty uncommon outside of labs or ISO 9000-type operations. Maybe just keep a small notebook near where you have the ICs, and note the date and the result for each setup. Someone here can suggest how often it should be done - weekly? monthly? If you do get dragged into some bogus suit ("They didn't cook my food, they just held it in the Danger Zone!"), you will be able to demonstrate that when you say you cooked at 134F, it really was 134F, and not 128F. Plus, it's a good way to demonstrate that you know what you are doing and take more than standard care regarding food safety in this "avant garde" field. 2. Don't assume that the circulation function is really keeping the bath at a consistent temp throughout. I've seen some photos of pretty crowded looking tubs in restaurant kitchens. Just (carefully) poke around in different parts of the bath with the thermometer to confirm that you don't have any "dead" spots. If you do, rearrange, use racks, whatever, and keep checking periodically. Yes, you are a professional, no you haven't made anyone sick, but don't get complacent, particularly if you are doing lower temp, shorter cook items. That's another point - if you are using an internal probe thermometer to "cook until the internal temperature is X", then you should use the calibrated thermometer to confirm that your everyday thermometers are correct in the temperature range that you are using them. (and, yes, you should log those checks and repeat the checks periodically. wheeee! Isn't this exactly why you got into "the culinary arts"?) That's probably true for non-sous vide kitchens, too. (On that dead spot point - I was pleasantly surprised that my home setup was pretty consistent (+/- 2C around 60C) even without a bubbler/pump. (I'm using a SVM to control a large coffee "urn".) I was using an untrustworthy thermometer, but I'm guessing that it's good for showing relative changes, even if it is inaccurate in terms of absolute temp. I was worried because I had two good sized bags in the tank, so I used another thermometer to check for "dead" spots. They were there, but only by a degree or two. I was doing a long pork belly cook, so I wasn't worried. Even at 58C, they were well pasteurized, given the cook time. Nonetheless, I'm still going to get a bubbler, and keep checking.)
  25. Is this the first year that the Gila is in your town? If your concern is that "America's only pro cyclist*" will be showing up, then I'd bet that your increase in business would be primarily from fans/sightseers. "Yummy" will be a lot more important to them than "performance food". The TdF is a huge party. Bike riders zipping by for 15 seconds is an excuse to drink and eat in the general vicinity of the road. Here in the states, it's happening at a much smaller scale. If you are assuming that there will be a lot more attendees than usual because of Lance, then I'd guess that the vast majority of them will be "regular folks" rather than avid/pro cyclists. Looking at the race site, it looks like several stages will start in Silver City, and several will be totally outside of town. You may get a bunch of early morning sales of breakfast items, plus spectators looking for lunch/picnic items I would be looking for coffee and a muffin for now, plus bottled drinks and sandwiches/salads packaged and ready to go in a bag to take with me to where ever it was I was going to hang out along the road to watch the stage. Take a look at the start times to get an idea of when spectators will be getting ready to head out to watch the day's stage. The Crit on Saturday should mean all day foot traffic, and more immediate/less pre-planned food. (*Groan - it's just that there are a bunch of American pros, but Armstrong is the only one who gets any attention from the general public/press.)
  • Create New...