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Everything posted by tomdarch

  1. I'm pretty sure I've seen it in the freezer at Paulina Market, but I have no idea about the price. Paulina Market 3501 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 248-6272 http://www.paulinameatmarket.com/
  2. I'm planning a trip, a casual long weekend, in late July. Montreal looks to have a food scene that can make even a Chicagoan like myself pretty happy, with a lot more good possibilities than I can take advantage of in a few days. I'm looking for some feedback on two partially related, partially independent issues. My soon-to-be wife is a lacto-ovo vegitarian (meaning she loves dairy and eggs, but no, she won't pick meat out of a dish, or eat broth or things cooked in lard, and no, she doesn't eat fish/shellfish, and no chicken (or foie gras) isn't "vegetarian" ) And luckily for me, she isn't into the texturized vegetable protien "tofurky" scene or the "mashed yeast on brown rice with over-cooked carrots" self-punishment version of not eating meat. We're in agreement that two of the best meals we've had were at Green Zebra, Shawn McClain's mostly-veg restaurant here in Chicago. (The NYT review couldn't help dropping a vague reference/comparison to The French Laundry.) We recently had our first, and potentially only, visit to Charlie Trotter's, and while it was interesting and I'm glad we went, neither of us were blown away. The first issue is that the menus I'm seeing on Montreal restaurant websites seem "negotiable" for a vegetarian, but most don't seem to have solid (or exciting) veg entrees, or many non-meat/fish options in general. (Hey, look, another mushroom/asparagus risotto, amazing.) We've got great ethnic restaurants here in Chicago (Albanian, Andalusian, African, Algerian, Bahamian, Belgian, Burmese, on and on...), so while "ethnic" can be a great solution, it would be nice to get some uniquely Montreal/Quebec restaurants in. The future Mrs. has determined that the famous poutine place has veg options, so we're very well set on that. We'd love some suggestions on non-splurge lunches and dinners around town. The other issue is that she has said that she'll allot me one semi-crazy foodie dinner, even if it isn't very veggie friendly. I know that this means Au Pied or the Cabine for everyone here, but I just don't know if I'm really excited about that pork-o-rific/gout-inducing experience, particularly in July (and I'm not a big fan of non-sushi seafood). I'm getting a little excited seeing stuff about some of the "tweezer wielding/foam spraying"* restaurants in town! Specifically Laloux and Raza (and possibly DNA). Laloux seems to be doing some pretty appealing things (not to mention the pot de creme). I've really enjoyed Chicago's latin/french specialists Mexique, so Raza seems to have some potential (plus, they have an anti-griddle!*). I haven't been able to find too much on DNA. MAS Cuisine also looks interesting (but it may be cheap enough to not use up my "big night out" card.) Anyone have feedback on these places? My guess is that if I reserve well in advance for their tasting menus, they would be willing/able to do a veggie version for my better half - it's fine if that means pulling elements off their normal menu, plus, it's July - peak produce season. Does that sound reasonable? After not being super excited by Trotter's, I'm hesitant about Toque - that restaurant which has been the "best place in town" for years, and may be still plugging away in the same vein. And XO (?) really doesn't seem like my style at all. Plus, it would be nice to spend less than that... (*I'm actually making fun of myself and my excitement about this, but I don't think I can explain exactly how...)
  3. I just bought "Frozen Desserts" from the CIA, so once I've finished the chapter on overthrowing democratically elected governments ( ), I'm going to read up on ice cream mixes and stabilizers. Also, I tried my first reverse spherification experiment. I did the Ginger Spheres (pg ?). Technically it worked great, but on their own, they weren't exactly yummy. One trick I figured out, and I think this will go for all the frozen/reverse spheres in the book. When you drop the frozen sphere into the alginate bath, gently roll it around for a while. If you drop it and let it sit on the bottom, there's no way for the alginate to come into contact with the calcium in the sphere solution, thus you get a weak "skin" there, and the spheres will leak, blob-out, etc.
  4. tomdarch

    Ramps: The Topic

    Has anyone ever seen ramps at a grocery or market in the Chicago area? (I've got some shoestring connections in West Virginia, but they'd give me some pretty funny looks over the e-mail when it came to sending them to me. "You want me to what? in the FedEx how? dang crazy city-folk.... )
  5. Separate question: has anyone done parsnips sous vide? Their similarities to both carrots and potatoes makes me think they may be winners! (a little butter, salt, maybe some herb, then in the bath at 85C for 30 to 60 minutes?)
  6. I did a small test chunk of dry-rub (salt/sugar/smoked paprika) pork belly this week. I cooked it at 65C for roughly 8 hours, then seared it in a cast iron skillet. It wasn't amazing. The flavor was great, but the meat was a bit dry and/or a bit tough. I'm trying to figure out if the temp was too high, if the cooking time wasn't long enough, or if the salt rub just pulled too much liquid out. Any ideas? Also, the pork bellies have their skin on. With the test chunk I did, I didn't realize that it was there, so I went ahead and seared it. I pretty much liked it. Some recipe I've seen comments on removing it. Of the two chunks I'm using, the one I didn't take the test from has a thicker, more noticeable skin. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'd rather get the skin off, so I can really sear/crisp the fat. They are in ziplocks covered in rub currently. Would I be better off removing the skin after rinsing off the rub, or removing it when they come out of the water bath?
  7. So far I've done two spherification experiments. Both were technically successful. Neither tasted very good, at least on their own. First I did mango standard spherification from the Textures recipes. They formed pretty well, but the mango was bland. The end result looked like raw egg yolks, but had little flavor and were only slightly sweet. The experience was popping what looked like raw egg into your mouth, and then getting a mouth full of vaguely sweet snot-textured blech. Ah well. (I think I brought the aligante mix up to a boil at some point mixing it in - that may have over-thickened the alginate and created the "snot" texture.) This last week I did the Ginger spheres from the Alinea cookbook. This is a reverse spherification process, with the substance (ginger steeped in sugar water) frozen in sphere ice cube trays with calcium lactate, then thawed in a warm alginate bath. These worked pretty darn well. I wasn't very impressed with the flavor, and the texture of the interior was just, well, water. I think I'm looking for something between water and semi-thick alginate snot. Maybe a "creamy" texture. Hmm... which hydrocolloid do I "need" next? Carol @ Alinea At Home recently posted about the Beet sphere recipe: http://alineaathome.typepad.com/alinea_at_...-olive-oil.html Those beet sheres are the same reverse/frozen process as the ginger ones I made. Read the post - she, uh, had a little trouble... One thing I figured out about that process: you are dropping calcium-rich material into the alginate bath - if the frozen sphere just sits on the bottom, it can't pull alginate out of the bath to form a skin where it's touching the glass. Once you drop the frozen sphere into the bath, start gently rolling it around for a few seconds, so that all of the surface can be in contact with the alginate solution. That's how I did the first bunch. When I tried just letting them sit on the bottom with no stirring, I got "leaky" spheres, as I suspected. Generally the frozen sphere/reverse system makes a ton of sense for making perfectly round "ravioli". Downsides are that you need a sphere mold or ice cube tray and that you are limited in the size that you can make to the size of the mold/tray. (oh... actually, I just realized that you could intentionally under-fill the mold. You would get partial spheres, with a flat side, that would be the same overall diameter, but less in volume, if that's appropriate for your dish. Just plate them flat side down/embedded in something else. Or the flat "top" might be interesting.)
  8. Basically, I'm looking for the same thing. In the Alinea recipe, there is a chocolate preparation that's liquid around room temperature. That preparation is frozen into a block, then the frozen block is sprayed with a semi-thick layer of chocolate on all sides that will remain solid at room temperature. The sprayed surface in the photo is beyond "velvet" - it's verging on "popcorn" - splattery and textured, but even. This sprayed block is allowed to come to room temperature and is served (with all the other "accessories") on the edge of a bowl, so that the diner breaks the outer layer of sprayed chocolate, and the liquid interior runs out into the bowl. Here's a photo of the dish before the sprayed "block" is broken open for the liquid contents to run out onto the plate. http://farm1.static.flickr.com/21/28012111_bcbd16a545.jpg In the book, the lighting makes the evenly splattered surface pretty clear. Functionally, though, the splatter doesn't matter. The important thing is that the outer layer is thick enough to contain the liquid center. For most of us "Alinea at home" folks, buying a serious HVLP spray system is probably out of the question. We're looking for a way to get that outer layer of sprayed chocolate onto the frozen "core" block. I don't have the book with me, or I'd give you some idea of what the spraying chocolate is like in terms of ingredients/mix/quantity. One issue I see with the small air brushes is that in order to coat several blocks, you would need a fair amount of chocolate. The tiny paint pot may be impractical. I had thought that I could pour/paint on the outer coating, but that isn't nearly as pretty or "authentic."
  9. I'm assuming here that you're talking about US law. Let's go to the root of the whole thing, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution: My hope is that you take a step back and look at what is currently called "Intellectual Property" and ask why this system was created and what it's good and bad points are. The US Constitution establishes a temporary period of exclusivity for the specific purpose of promoting progress, presumably for the common good. There's nothing "natural" or "god-given" about patent/copyright - it's an intervention by government in the marketplace to promote long term societal benefits (e-gads! socialism!). (Speaking of the temporary nature of that protection, it's been decades now that Mickey Mouse should have passed into the public domain - curiously, each time that deadline has approached, the Congress has enacted bills extending the period of Copyright...) Personally, I am an architect - some of what I do is limited by patent-encumbered technologies, and some of what I do is protected by copyrights. Our technical drawings are protected by Copyright and contractual agreements (typically, you can't take the "blueprints" for a building and build it in other places without the agreement of the Architect.) But the issue that I think you are interested in is "appearance". In the case of architecture, there is some protection for a design, but it has to be pretty distinctive, and the copy has to be pretty darn direct, in order to have any chance in court. Also, the firm suing needs to have major resources and the potential damages award has to be pretty big to make it worth suing. But in general, that's a good thing. It's for the best that architects don't spend a lot of time worrying that their design may be similar to another building. There are only so many ways to put walls, windows, doors, columns and roofs together to stand up, keep the rain out and such. We are all better off not worrying about "copying" very much and getting on with making beautiful, functional buildings as much as possible. If I take a bunch of photos of a Frank Gehry building and make a pretty exact copy of it somewhere, that's a problem. But if I like the idea of a curved wall/roof that's clad with sheet metal "scales" and incorporate it into my own new building, that's fine. In fact, that's how design progresses - standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, and "swapping ideas" with our contemporaries. Don't forget the quote attributed to Picaso: He's talking about both his contemporaries, from whom he learned a great deal, and himself. If we over-protect designs and ideas, we actually will slow down the pace of discovery and innovation. Don't forget about learning: Taking a photo of something doesn't get much information into your brain. Drawing it helps you to discover a lot about what you are looking at. Trying to make an exact copy teaches you a huge amount about the original and the process that went into its creation. In fact, making exact copies was the core of education for most crafts/trades (for example, furniture making) for thousands of years. Just don't take credit for the design of your copy. Sometimes, industries thrive because of copying and piracy. Here's a piece in the NTY about something called "the piracy paradox": http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/05/business...ml?ref=business Piracy helps the fashion/apparel industry - once a new design has been around long enough to be "knocked off", it is no longer fashionable, so customers ditch the old designs and spend top dollar to buy the newest in new and keep up with the changing trends. If it weren't for that cycle, people would buy practical, durable clothes infrequently, and there wouldn't be high end boutiques and department stores churning through billions of dollars. (I'm looking out my office window at the new Barney's department store in Chicago - they doubled the size of the store in the middle of this recession. Yep - something is going alright for the fashion industry, despite rampant knock-offs.) Also, don't forget that knock-offs can be free advertising. Let's say you come up with a unique design - the "Autoswing style". It's a big hit on the internet, other bakeries start ripping it off, popularizing it. Someone gets a knock-off cake for a big party. Conversation at the party turns to the cool cake. Soon, everyone at the party knows that it's a rip-off of the cakes at Autoswing Bakery. And maybe the host is embarrassed that she got "an imitation." Over the next couple of months, Autoswing Bakery gets a bunch of new orders for their signature cakes from people at that party. Ta da! Piracy generates business for the innovator. (I'm basing this on the origins of Metallica - before they had a record deal, bootleg tapes of their shows/songs were circulating, creating new fans, who would come to their shows. That fan base led to their record deal. Piracy=free advertising.) Ripping off other people's work and not giving them credit sucks. But don't get blindered by the "Intellectual Property" maximalist propoganda out there. As a society we need to find a balance between openness and protecting the inventor. As a designer and innovator, you need to have some spine and self-confidence and not worry too much about rip-offs.
  10. tomdarch

    Avec Eric

    I have been a bit distracted by the "separated at birth (and one cryogenically frozen and thawed several years later)" thing: http://aveceric.com/2009/02/17/top-chef-at...your-questions/ http://www.cwtv.com/shows/americas-next-to...el/cast/jmanuel
  11. And there we are. Ironically (or not?), the guy who faked his resume is exactly the right guy to create trouble where there is none. I actually sort-of liked the Symon ones. Silly me. I might have accidentally learned something about cooking. I realize I am insane by most standards. I'd love to have a cooking show where two chefs/teams are told a week in advance what the "theme ingredients" (yes, plural, so we don't end up with salmon ice cream). They are then given two or three days in a very well equipped kitchen to prepare the best meal they can. They are then reviewed not by celebrities, not by people who moved from Oklahoma to NY two years ago to work in the food-media, not by restaurant business people who don't care or know what food tastes like, but by a group of people who actually know food and cooking, who eat the meals over the course of several hours, drinking wine and discussing the food and anything else. (Just the way a good meal should be!) Maybe - there would be no "winner"!?! Yep, totally crazy. I;m syre it would never be on food tv. (How does Alton put up with it?)
  12. I tried the Cassia Bud ice cream this weekend. Obviously (?) I don't have a PacoJet (or the mysterious "Stab 2000" that doesn't seem to exist on Google*), so I mixed it up and threw it in my home core-in-the-freezer ice cream machine. Having read most of the PacoJet thread here, I knew that PacoJet "ice cream" is usually low in fat and high in solids - exactly what the Cassia Bud ice cream recipe has. As I was mixing it up, I was thinking "this is going to be ice milk, not ice cream." Yep. Ice milk. It wasn't a solid block of ice, because of the sugar content, but it sure wasn't a nice mouth-feel ice cream. The Cassia Buds (source: The Spice House in Chicago) smelled great when toasting them, but became a fairly normal, familiar cinnamon flavor when steeped in the milk. The final flavor is a very nice cinnamon ice cream (and I usually don't like cinnamon ice cream), but it lacks the spicy, exotic "je ne sais quoi" that you get when toasting the buds. (*L'Epicerie carries something along the lines of "STABI 3000" - I wonder 1)if this is a good substitution, and 2)if a stabilizer would make much difference, or if I need to fundamentally change the mix to one appropriate for the home ice cream maker.)
  13. Duh! I've been looking at that dish, but I didn't feel quite "hardcore" go with the tobacco flavor. Coffee sounds great (and it will cause a lot less eye-rolling at home!) "looks interesting": it really is, but you may want to take a look through it at a bookstore, or better, check it out of your library, first. There are quite a few dishes that require obscure molecular gastronomy ingredients and/or equipment. There are a few dishes that are simple and great, but most are hyper-complicated and the result can be "unconventional". If nothing else, it's really, really beautiful. I don't want to discourage you, but check it out before you spend as much as a nice restaurant dinner on a book that may be pretty, but functionally useless (unless you want in on this weirdness! ) Check out the blogs "alineaathome" and "alineaphile" for blow-by-blow examples of folks actually making these dishes.
  14. Dougal - Thanks! I'm right there with you on all those points. I'm focusing my "hobbyist energies" on actual cooking currently, so I don't think I will be reverse engineering the pot's wiring or busting out the soldering iron. (Unless I come across a similar unit in a junk shop for very cheap....) I'm just going to track down a big, cheap, dumb rice cooker and go with that. Sadly, that may involve some trips to Chinatown and the suburban Asian Megamarts. Oh, poor me. For now, I'm slogging through this very long thread looking for appealing recipes that don't require temperatures over about 60C. I hope our input is helpful to anyone who may have one of the awful devices collecting dust in their pantry. These percolators certainly shouldn't be used for burning coffee!
  15. Drat! Partial success with a coffee urn, but with a limitation. I got ahold of a coffee urn (Mr. Coffee "45 cup" CBTU45). My new Auber PID controller seemed to auto tune very nicely, ending up pulsing periodically to keep the temp at 60C. One big plus is that the urn heats water from a depressed "pit" at the bottom of the tank. You can watch the currents of heated water moving up and away from this point, and the sides are uninsulated, so it would seem to generate a fair amount of convection currents. I had the PID probe pretty low in the tank, and another thermometer pretty high and to the side of the tank. They agreed pretty consistently. This was without bagged food in the tank. I will probably get a bubbler, regardless. The problem is that the urn has two modes - an initial full heat "brew" mode and a lower temp "serving" mode. That "serving" mode seems to be limited to about 63C, with the PID on (to some degree) continuously. For the hour or so that I ran it in this mode, the PID did not feel warm on top or bottom. My inference is that the "serving" mode pulls a pretty small number of watts to maintain that temp, so the PID should be OK in terms of heat. So, for most meat cooking, a practical max. temperature of 60C would be just fine, but I'm hoping to do various vegetables (typically cooked around 85C) and "well done" eggs (70C to 80C). Along the lines of eggs, I'm also hoping to experiment with egg preparations like creme brulee and cheesecake. There should be some potential for savory and/or cheese egg preparations. Low temp water bath should allow for "perfect" cooking of these, without a risk of overcooking. Well, I'm going give some meat a try, and get back to looking for a big, cheap rice cooker.
  16. It turns out, we already are dosing ourselves with coumarin in a lot of our baked goods and breakfast goodies. Take a look at this German government food safety report, which they have very nicely posted in English: http://www.bfr.bund.de/cm/279/frequently_a...other_foods.pdf It's focused on the coumarin content of cassia cinnamon (as opposed to Ceylon/"True"/Saigon cinnamon). For folks who aren't cinnamon snobs, almost all the cinnamon you buy/eat in the US is actually cassia. "Normal" cinnamon sticks - one thick, curled layer, about 3 inches long - that's cassia. The ground "cinnamon" at the grocery store and supplied to the food industry, yep, cassia. "True" cinnamon is harder to get, more expensive, and in "stick" form, is made up of several paper-thin layers. It's also more potent and a bit more "spicey". Even "true" cinnamon has some coumarin, just at a lower level. The grannie/hippie crowd should also get their beads in a bunch: chamomile contains coumarin! Oh my! Grannie must have been trying to kill me when she served me home made cinnamon rolls and chamomile tea! About the "rat poison" issue - it's used as rat poison specifically because rats metabolize it differently than humans. It's strongly toxic to them, but only mildly toxic to humans (and almost never fatal), which makes it an excellent substance to use as rat poison. With an LD50 for humans of 275 mg/kg, it would take about 26g of pure coumarin to have a 50% chance of killing me. As someone pointed out here, the US ban on Tonka beans coincided with the commercial development of Warfarin (trade name Coumadin), which is a chemically modified form of coumarin. I'd also like to point out that both purveyors of pure vanilla products and synthetic "vanillin" products would have reason to want Tonka beans banned as a competing product. I suspect that the Tonka bean industry had lousy lobbyists back in the 50s. About "toxins" in general. Most "toxins" are totally harmless below a certain level. That's why the German government report above establishes a "Tolerable Daily Intake." The report also discusses the effects of higher doses, and reports that for the tiny percentage of individuals who appear to have a sensitivity to coumarin, they typically recover fully within weeks, and should not expect long term health implications. To sum up: we're all exposing ourselves to coumarin pretty much every day already. But that's OK, because it doesn't appear to have a toxic effect below the "Tolerable Daily Intake" level. Sure it's technically "toxic", but only in relatively large doses, and medical evidence points to any liver damage from high doses being entirely reversible.
  17. AH HA! Coffee Urn! I was at KMart looking for a rice cooker. (My neighborhood in Chicago is full of folks with lots of different rice eating cultures, but my KMart only had one model of mini-rice cooker?!?) As I was wandering the aisles in disappointment, I noticed one lone monster coffee urn on a top shelf. You know, one of those monster percolators used to crank out lousy joe for gatherings in the church multi-purpose room. I didn't drop $43 on the monster on that upper shelf. Better than that - somewhere on an even higher shelf in my parents' pantry is one of those things. Once I get my hands on it and confirm that it stays on even when the power is cut and restored, I'm putting in my order for a PID...
  18. But the whole point to sous vide/low temp is to both avoid the Caldarium and the Vomitorium! (I know I'm mis-using "Vomitorium" (it's the break in the grandstands through which the gladiators/footballers run onto the field) but I couldn't resist a little really bad architecture humor.) On the point of the fish tank system: as long as you are pre-heating the water that's going into the tank, why not pre-heat the food on the stove also to avoid stressing the heaters when cold bags go in? I'm thinking that if you're doing a long cook, then warming the food/bags in a pot on the stove a few degrees below the target temp would take care of most of the temperature drop when they go into the tank. Also, if the system is having problems with overshoot, you could easily remove some of the insulation from the sides of the tank. (Besides, the best part of using a tank would be that you could see and photograph the bags hanging in the water surrounded by bubbles!) Personally, I just bought a new probe thermometer to try some veggies on the stove top. Chadzilla has some interesting posts on potatoes cooked in the 83C range for 40min to 2h. I think I can handle babysitting a pot for an hour or so! He's saying that at 83C, the starch breaks down, but you still have some crispness from the pectins. I'm going to cube up some Yukon Golds (dunno - 1/2" cubes?) and I'm thinking of olive oil+salt+pepper to start. Anyone have any other veggie suggestions?
  19. tomdarch

    Avec Eric

    I'm really, really trying hard to not go on a 10,000 word rant about societal power differentials... I'll sum it up with: 1) As an Architect, I'm still going to try to learn as much as I can from the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, despite what a scumball he was in his personal life. 2) Yes, it matters when people in power promulgate bizarre lies about people with less power - it's a tool to keep them down. 3)Yes, these are contradictory, but that's part of being an adult. But does anyone know anything specific about this show? When is it due to air?
  20. Definitely sounds better than the conventional "dry" oven/bain marie, but it still sounds like its missing the advantage of surrounding the food in X degree water and bringing it up to X degrees, but no hotter. I see that someone here mentioned doing cheesecake in a mason jar - that seems to be along the lines of what I'm thinking. I'm trying to think of some savory variations, rather than sweet creme brulee. What comes to mind is essentially the potential of soft, consistent texture "omlettes" - an egg base with caramelized onions, cheese and an herb like thyme. (particularly with thyme, I think that it needs time to "infuse") One possibility where the steam would really beat bagging/immersion would be a sort of "souflee" - you could stabilize a flavored egg foam, then cook it without loosing much of the lift. But that foam stabilization is more "molecular" than sous vide... On to vegetables - any suggestions for spring veggies or alternative preparations? (as in other than butter+salt+herbs(+sugar?)) Is anyone finishing veggies by sautéing or glazing (e.g. carrots)?
  21. Lots of talk about doing meat/fish sous vide (or more strictly low temperature/bagged/water bath cooking), but I've been thinking about some other possibilities. When I saw the comment about sealing entire (small) terrines in the bag on a post at eatfoo.com, combined with the idea of the 65C egg, it got me thinking. Could sous vide be the ideal way to do creme brulee? I'm thinking that you could vac the mixture in the ramekin (freezing first, if necessary), then cook in the water bath. One conventional recipe with internal temps I saw said to pull from the oven/bain marie at 170 deg F, with some allowance for carry over. It seems that there would be an ideal temperature in the range of 175F/80C to cook the cremes. You don't want to brown them in conventional cooking, because you torch sugar on top normally, so you aren't loosing that aspect of conventional cooking. The controlled temperature of the water immersion should avoid the hassle of checking them in the oven and the risk of over cooking them. Basically, I'm trying to rationalize getting a PID/foodsaver setup. I don't eat much meat (not strictly a veg., I'm just not driven to eat it daily), so I'm looking for starch, veg and sweet uses. (In addition to the occasional perfect duck...)
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