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Everything posted by SethG

  1. SethG

    Steven Shaw

    I just learned the news this morning. I am still in shock, as I expect many of you are. My condolences to Steven's family. He had a very positive influence on my life and helped open the world of food up to me. The institutions he built introduced me to many wonderful people. I am so sorry for this tragic loss.
  2. You folks on the flat cookie team should try the Chocolate Chunkers (page 70). There's so much chunky stuff in these that there's no way they can flatten out. I made them the other day and they're delicious. I had some misgivings shortly after they came out of the oven. I used salted peanuts (as the recipe suggests), and when I tasted a cookie I felt the saltiness of the nuts was overwhelming some of the other flavors. I know both Dorie and Pierre Herme like to combine salt with sweet, but seeing as there's salt in the cookie batter already, it occurred to me that maybe there's a typo in the book and the peanuts should have been UNsalted. So then I asked my wife, who tried one and said I was being stupid, the cookies are unbelievably decadent and amazing. As they cooled I didn't find the saltiness to be as out-of-balance. But next time I might try it with low-salt or no-salt peanuts. I also made the Double Apple Bundt Cake (page 184) for an office breakfast, and man, there were no misgivings about that cake! It was gone in seconds. This batter is so moist that it's very forgiving. I actually got distracted by a phone call and dinner prep while the cake was in the oven, and I let it bake beyond the recommended time before I remembered to check it. When I checked it I thought it seemed a little beyond just done, but it wasn't even close to dried out when I served it. Really good.
  3. I find soaking bowls in hot soapy water gets the stuff off-- and the sooner you soak, the better. Do not ruin your towels and sponges by using them to clean bits of dough off your work surfaces. Instead use a bench scraper to just scrape the bits off.
  4. Haven't been here in a while. I had no idea Dorie's new book was out. I just read through this thread in one sitting and ordered the book. Congratulations Dorie! Looks like another great work. I can't wait to receive my copy. Any chance your promotional tour will swing through NYC?
  5. Can you eat: chocolate mousse (often made with uncooked egg whites)? classic Caesar salad (raw egg)? Pasta Carbonara (made by mixing cooked pasta with raw eggs)? Not doubting, just curious. I don't associate any smell with eggs or with fresh chicken. If raw chicken has an odor to my nose, it's been sitting around too long.
  6. We had a thread along these lines a long long long time ago, here, if you want to check it out for some ideas. A small group of us did some work with Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. It was fun. I still use the book a lot.
  7. Becca, your first picture looks like the work of a pro! No need to criticize yourself. I like that squiggle on the top of your pave, FoodMan.
  8. Thanks for all the tips here. We just got back from Montreal, where we had a wonderful time. We loved the city. We ate a ton. We were very pleased with the food we found there. Right after we arrived on Friday we looked for a suitable lunch location near our hotel in Vieux Montreal. We tried to eat at both the Cluny ArtBar and Olive & Gourmando, but it being after 2 p.m., the food at both places was rather picked-over and unappealing. We ended up at Versus, the restaurant belonging to the Hotel Nelligan. The restaurant has large banquettes and enormous windows that open to make the whole restaurant feel like an open-air terrace. It was a very pleasant place to sit and have a drink, and the food wasn't bad. My wife had a salad with good chunks of seared tuna, and I had a salmon dish served with some yummy caramelized fennel. The menu is short. Dinner on Friday was Au Pied de Cochon. I thought we were both prepared for the experience. But when we walked in, we were a bit taken aback by the utter lack of décor in the place. The restaurant is really rather ugly, with plain, blond wood tables, in an awkward, long room. Plus, on a warm day the brick oven up front really makes the place unpleasantly hot. While we were standing there, waiting for the hostess, we saw one couple, clearly bewildered by the menu and waiting a while for some help with it, get up and leave. Then we were given their table, and I noticed the sweating couple next to us struggling to make a dent in what looked like massive piles of meat and sauerkraut. They didn't really look happy, either. The menu was impenetrable, listing opaque items like "PDC Chop" and "Duck in a Can." I was worried. But then our server arrived, and everything turned out quite well. The staff was very helpful and enthusiastic. We had an interesting small appetizer that verged on "molecular gastronomy:" fried balls of liquefied (somehow?) foie gras. The little poppers just exploded in your mouth. Not bad, but I wouldn't bother with them again. Then we had asparagus, the first of the season, and this dish was way more complex than I expected. In addition to asparagus it featured fiddleheads, a scoop of polenta, and goat cheese foam. Delicious. As for entrees, we had the lamb shank, which is confited (in duck fat), then braised until fork tender and served with a light tomato sauce. That was good, but the duck in a can turned out to be the showstopper. This dish involves duck breast, a hunk of foie gras, some lardons, thyme, some kind of stocky stuff, and I'm sure a few other things, all canned in-house at the restaurant. At the time of service, they heat up the can, bring it to your table, open it, and dump the steaming contents over bread on a plate. Sensational. This dish, to me, was the essence of the restaurant. Over-the-top in terms of richness and volume, but man. Somehow you eat it all. We ordered a tasty Cotes Du Rhone Villages to go with it for $37. On Saturday we had a picnic lunch at the Jean Talon market, assembled from Hamel cheeses and a couple other things from around the market. Dinner was at Toque! We'd already noticed that space age 60s-retro decorations are quite popular around Montreal, and Toque! takes this idea to an extreme. The restaurant is in the lobby of a modern international style office building, and the furnishings feature spherical white lighting fixtures and huge striped banquettes in red, pink and purple. I liked it, my wife not so much. We both were pleased with the food and the service; there was some obvious upselling going on, but we were willing participants. The server offered us a small-production sparkling wine to start with, and he used enough superlatives to describe it that I wasn't surprised at the $21 per glass that we ended up paying for it. Then he also suggested we might like to start with a raw oyster while we looked over the menu, and we did. We knew we'd be paying $5 per oyster, and the amount of money was trivial, so again we went along willingly, but in this case it seemed a little funny to be invited to buy the amuse bouche. Our appetizers were, first, the foie gras, which was nice. It was seared, with a nice crust, very soft in the middle, and it was served with crispy fruit wrappers (I can't think of another way to describe them) on top of a mango puree. I thought the fruit complemented the foie gras interestingly and well. Our other appetizer was a single giant braised duck ravioli, which we both loved. It was our favorite moment of the meal. We weren't quite as thrilled with the mains, although there was nothing wrong with them. The suckling pig just wasn't as tender as we expected, and we thought the squab was just very tasty, not earth-shattering. I can't for the life of me remember what we had for dessert. We drank a 1er Cru Beaune Burgundy. Looking over this, I think I sound lukewarm on Toque!, but really we had a splendid time and we thoroughly enjoyed the very expensive meal. We left pleased. On Sunday we went up to Mile End in the morning and tried the so-called bagels at both Fairmount and St. Viateur. Since these aren't really bagels that any New Yorker would recognize as such, it's hard for me to say much about whether they're really "better" than New York's. They really bear a closer resemblance to bread sticks, or even pretzels, than to New York-style bagels. Evaluating them as bread, I'd say they're not terribly good. The sesame specimens gain depth of flavor when warm from all of the toasted seeds. I also thought I could taste a little bit of honey sweetness when the bagels were warm, but barely any after they cooled. If you let Montreal bagels cool, they aren't left with much to recommend them. They're light, soft breadsticks. Most surprising to me was the light, bready texture of the bagels. I expected them to be denser, more like the older-style New York bagels. But they weren't. Sorry, Montreal partisans: as my wife said on Sunday, New York wins. The smoked meat was another matter. We had lunch at Schwartz's on Sunday, and the meat was first rate. Good flavor, light smokiness. We had medium fat. The sandwich was just $4.95. We waited on line, but it moved very quickly. We had a nice conversation with the elderly couple next to us. I'd go again in a heartbeat. I'll be stopping into Katz's soon for a comparison while the memory is still fresh. I won't say that Montreal wins in this category, but it certainly holds its own. Sunday's dinner was at a BYO restaurant called A L'Os, which again, we really very much enjoyed. We brought a Volnay from the SAQ. The portions at A L'Os are quite large. I started with a very generous portion of ostrich tartare, served with crunchy bread toasts and a light salad. This is apparently a traditional preparation, and I thought it was very good, with the lightly gamey meat, onions, a little mustard tang and parsley. It was too rich for me to finish it. I also had a huge veal chop, served with a nice brown sauce, mashed potatoes, french beans and asparagus. The restaurant fetishizes bottled water. They provide a menu of seven or eight different bottled waters. We found this amusing. I'd say A L'Os is a serious bistro, and it's probably more expensive than most, but I thought the standards there were very high and portions were very generous, making it a very good value. On Monday before heading to the airport we had lunch at Chez L'Epicier. This restaurant is also a gourmet food shop and the goods are on display in the same rooms in which you eat. The rooms occupy the first floors of two adjacent buildings, and the walls are rough-hewn stone blocks. There are huge windows, so the restaurant is nice and bright. The place is an excellent spot for a weekday lunch, but by noon you'll find most tables filled with business lunchers. A reservation might be wise; we only got a table because we came in right after they opened. They do particularly well by their vegetables. My wife had sea bream which was served over a pesto and several root vegetables including carrots, beets, and parsnips, all of them cooked just right. My lamb "tatin" (served in a pastry crust) came with a bright, fresh squash puree. Overall we left very impressed with the restaurants in town.
  9. Thanks for the confirmation. I guess I did the right thing.
  10. Well, after some more thinking I changed our reservation to A L'Os for Sunday.
  11. Our trip to Montreal is one week away and I've been dilly-dallying over making our reservation for Sunday night. Lesley's suggestion that we try Le P'tit Plateau was a non-starter since they're closed Sundays. Looking over recommendations here and elsewhere, I decided to try Chez L'Epicier, an ambitious restaurant that isn't one of the three or four you always see mentioned everywhere. I'm still open to changing it if anyone has any other strong recommendations, or has something really awful to say about Chez L'Epicier! Here's some information about Chez L'Epicier for the curious.
  12. Why don't you name the restaurant? I'm sure they'd be happy with the publicity.
  13. Good luck! I wish you well. You are starting with a challenging sort (but also the best sort) of bread: wild yeast sourdough. But with Jack looking over your shoulder you should be fine, since even the most challenging bread is actually easy. It is a very forgiving process that usually comes out well under many less-than-ideal conditions. But making bread is different than other cooking; in some ways it more resembles animal husbandry. This may be why it has presented you with more difficulty than other cooking. Once you get to recognizing what your dough is telling you, however, you'll master it quickly, I guarantee!
  14. There's no view, but the Bubble Lounge is just a block away, and it has a certain New York-ness to it. It's a very pleasant room in which to have a glass of champagne. Another bar that's very New York, and very close to Nobu, is Grace. It has a beautiful, long bar. I haven't been in a while, but they used to make tremendous martinis with huge olives. Again, no view, sorry.
  15. So we've reserved a table at Au Pied De Cochon for Friday night and Toque! for Saturday. Do we need a reservation if we decide to try Le P'tit Plateau? I read somewhere that the restaurant is tiny. Also, I keep reading good things about L'Express, but I guess my initial impression was that it was a Montreal equivalent of Balthazar here in NYC: bustling scene, convivial atmosphere, beautiful people-- and not necessarily the best food. Are my impressions wrong? The great wine list is tempting. I also was wondering about Wilensky's, which somehow managed to get two mentions in Gourmet. Can it really be worth a trip for a bologna sandwich on an onion bun? Seems like the charm of the place is that the owners are brusque, like New Yorkers. I get enough of that at home.
  16. I thought I remembered jgarner having a baking blog while she was in pastry school but now I can't find it. Maybe it was her own site?
  17. I was afraid the soup would be a bust, but it came out very nicely. The recipe calls for two oxtails-- I used two crappy oxtail packages from the Key Food, after I came up empty at two real butchers. I almost gave up before buying the oxtails, since the price wasn't exactly in line with the peasant cooking I had in mind, but then I just figured WTF. Might as well go with it. Esquivel says to "cook" the oxtails in a little more water than you normally would. I put them in an eight quart stock pot and added about three quarts of water. This started to look low after a while, so I added probably another quart. I also added a couple of ice cube-sized chunks of frozen veal stock. I would've added more if I had any more, and the ones I had probably weren't enough to add much to the flavor of the soup. Esquivel also says to throw in a chunk of onion, a clove of garlic, and salt and pepper. I brought this pot to a simmer and let it go at a low simmer for about two hours, frequently skimming fat off the top, until the oxtail bone chunks were tender enough for me to pull them out and shred a lot of the meat off of them into the pot. Then, as Esquivel instructs, I softened a chopped onion and two chopped cloves of garlic in some oil until soft, and then added two cubed potatoes, four chopped tomatoes and about half a pound of green beans, and sauteed it all together just for a minute or two to let the flavors meld. But before I added the potatoes/beans/tomatoes, I added three softened, seeded, and finely chopped chipotle chiles (dried) and let them meld in for a couple minutes. Esquivel doesn't say what to do with the chiles, and I might have tried it Abra's way if I'd had more time. But I think this way worked out well. Then Esquivel says to just put the potato/bean/tomato mixture into the pot with the oxtails and simmer it all together for half an hour. And it's done. Nice. Light, beefy soup, made hearty by the vegetables, and medium spiciness from the chiles. It'll probably taste even better tonight. It was good with some sourdough bread right out of the oven, although that isn't exactly Mexican, I know.
  18. I went to Lupa for lunch recently and I can confirm that there were no wines by the glass, just bottles and quartinos. However, the wines by the quartino were well-chosen and very reasonably priced. At lunch I found the restaurant half-empty and very relaxed. This idea of the place as a pretentious temple is completley at odds with my experience. Maybe it was just the lunch factor but I found the restaurant to be entirely unpretentious and my pasta with a chicken and olive ragu was great (and a very generous portion too). I'm planning on it being a semi-regular lunch splurge.
  19. Thanks for the detailed recommendations, although I fear they are just making our choice more difficult! The real answer is probably that we'll have to go back again and try more restaurants. I think we'll try for Toque! and if they can't take us we'll have to start thinking again.
  20. This is essentially how I made my own starter, Ringo, who has faithfully served me, making wonderful sourdough bread every two or three days for the last two years. I used one of Peter Reinhart's methods, which started with only organic coarse rye flour and water, and once it got going (which was pretty much immediately), was fed with just white flour and water. Rye flour loves to ferment, but as I replaced the rye with wheat flour, I saw that the bacteria that loved the rye weren't so fond of the wheat. I saw the starter drop off to very little activity and slowly build up again, to the degree that I wondered if it would've been just as effective to start with just white flour and water. You see starter recipes all the time that call for grape skins or other fruit materials, and just as often see other recipes that say the fruit stuff is just old wives' tale nonsense and that all you need is flour and water. I say whatever works is fine. My only advice to someone building a new starter would be that you shouldn't worry about whether you are meeting the timetable in your recipe. Your recipe may say that it should double in such and such a time on the third day, or whatever. Don't worry about it. Similarly, don't worry about whether you feed your starter once, twice, or three times a day. Just set a schedule and stick to it, and keep doing it until your starter gets good and active. And if you're wondering if it's active, then it isn't. Believe me, you'll know when it is. And my own opinion is that chlorine in tap water retards wild yeast development, although I've read that that's a myth too. When building a new starter, I would let the tap water sit out overnight (the chlorine evaporates) or use bottled water. What was the source of your method, glenn, if I may ask? And good luck! I hope you see it through and keep posting the pictures.
  21. My wife and I will be in Montreal for a weekend in early May to celebrate our anniversary. I've gotten ahold of the Gourmet magazine devoted to Montreal and I've also read a few threads here and elsewhere, and this is what I'm currently thinking: We have three dinners to plan. I was thinking we'd go to Au Pied de Cochon on Friday, assuming we can get a reservation. Then on Saturday, our anniversary, I had several restaurants in mind as possibilities: Les Chevres, Toque, Le Club Chasse & Peche, and Anise. On Sunday (our last night), I was hoping we'd find the perfrect Montreal bistro, which might provide us with an authentically French-Canadian experience. I have the suspicion that L'Express, which I was considering at first, is not that place. We'd like our anniversary dinner to be great food, in nice surroundings, but we don't need candles and violins, or service that aspires to Michelin stars. Nor do we wish to have the most expensive meal, although a splurge is fine if it's worth it. I'm worried the Middle Eastern overtones at Anise would please my wife less than they would please me. If possible, we'd also like to mix up the neighborhoods in which we're eating. Any comments? It's really dinner I'm worried about sorting out. I expect the days to be a blur of markets, chocolate and cheese. With a visit to Schwartz's thrown in somewhere.
  22. For some reason I pulled Like Water for Chocolate off the shelf in my office today, which reminded me of this two-year-old thread, which I enjoyed at the time even if I was mostly talking to myself! I'm thinking about making the Ox-Tail Soup from chapter seven. Seems like a good antidote to a potentially rainy, cool Spring evening. Looking over the recipe, such as it is, there are a couple question marks. I'm worried about my soup having too weak a beef flavor. Esquivel specifies two oxtails, and she says to use more water than you usually would to cook them, seeing as it's a soup. I think that, in an attempt to keep to the spirit of the type of home cooking we're talking about, I'm not going to measure out the water, but will instead pick a pot that seems right and just go with it. I can always add water if it seems too rich, I guess. I may add some veal stock to the cooking water if I have any left in the freezer, just to "beef" it up, as it were. This seems like a reasonable thing to do, as Esquivel later mentions adding "seasoned broth," although it's unclear if she's talking about anything other than the water in which the oxtails are first cooked. Esquivel also specifies chiles moritas in the ingredients but never says what to do with them. I'm planning to soak them (or dried chipotles, if I don't find moritas) to soften them up, and then I'll seed them, chop them finely, and include them in the pan in which the onions, garlic, potatoes, and beans are cooked before being added to the soup. Unless someone tells me that's the wrong thing to do.
  23. I don't own a bread machine and I never will. But pasta dough needs a throrough kneading, and a bread machine would probably do a fine job of it. The only disadvantage I would expect from the method is that I'm always adjusting the amount of flour v. liquid in my pasta dough as I knead, arriving at a final ratio by feel. You can't do that with a machine.
  24. Anyone have any favorite vegan seder recipes? I may need some.
  25. That makes perfect sense. Obvious, I guess. Bright orange French yolks must produce a lovely final color.
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