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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by slkinsey

  1. I suppose it's similar to the reasons a vegetarian restaurant wouldn't stock beef, right?
  2. I think there is a right way and a wrong way to do this sort of thing. Pegu Club was probably the first large-scale famous cocktail bar that made a deliberate decision not to feature vodka drinks on its menus, to stock only two brands of vodka, and to stock no flavored vodkas at all. And yet, a big part of the philosophy there was to be polite and gracious and give the customer what he wanted. I remember Audrey telling me that they weren't about making vodka tonics, but if someone ordered a vodka tonic they would make him the best vodka tonic they could -- and they wouldn't make the guy feel like a loser for ordering one. Sure, there were times people came in asking about flavored vodkas and were sold on a "special citrus and juniper infused vodka" cocktail. But always with the proviso that, "if you don't like it, I'll be happy to make you something else." So it seems to me that there are ways to do these things: Rather than telling a customer that that Long Island Iced Tea he just ordered is a crap drink for rubes, the bartender can say that the bar doesn't make that drink but "if you like Long Island Iced Teas I bet you would love a classic Zombie. If you don't like it, I'll be happy to make you something else." Certainly there are bartenders out there who can be snooty. But we can't ignore the fact that there are plenty of customers out there who feel inappropriately entitled, and take offense when every bar isn't exactly what they want it to be. Believe it or not, there are customers who get angry or feel slighted if a bar doesn't stock amaretto or Coca-Cola. To make one example, I remember Phil Ward telling me a story from the early days of Mayahuel when a customer asked for a double vodka soda. She was told politely that the bar doesn't stock vodka and doesn't sell doubles, but that they would be happy to help her choose a drink from the bar's many offerings. This apparently wasn't good enough, and she went off on an angry tirade about what kind of pretentious snobby bar doesn't sell double vodka sodas. All of this is to say that condescension from bartenders certainly does exist, but it is erroneously inferred by customers on a fairly frequent basis as well.
  3. Dolin Dry is comparable to the old American Noilly Pratt, but it's really the original in this style and is IMO altogether a better product. Dolin Blanc sits in between the Chambéry dry style of Dolin Dry and a Torino style sweet vermouth, being sweeter than the former and more herbal/less spicy than the latter. Dolin invented this style. Both of Dolin Dry and Blanc are, IMO, the outstanding examples of their type. Dolin Rouge is, for me, not particularly compelling. The French just aren't that good at this style of vermouth. As for Wild Turkey, it was a great product at 101 proof. I don't know if they plan to re-release it at this proof. All my experience is from the old product so YMMV. Generally speaking I'd say that it's just about what you'd expect from a Wild Turkey whiskey. It's full flavored with considerable roughness around the edges, in contrast to Rittenhouse's overall smoother and sweeter character. Personally, I've never found any reason to buy Bulleit. All of the 95% rye mash American whiskeys are actually made from distillate obtained from MGP Ingredients in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (formerly known as Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana). This includes Bulleit, Willett, Templeton, Redemption, High West, and so on. If the mash bill is 95% rye, it almost certainly came from MGP. All these brands start out as tanker trucks full of "MGP Standard" 95% rye white dog. The only difference, then, has to do with aging (how long, in what kind of barrels, and under what conditions) and bottle proof. If you know what you're drinking, it's pretty easy to taste the similarities between all of the MGP-derived whiskeys. This isn't to say that they can't be interesting, but the best price for age-and-proof deal I've found on an MGP-derived rye is Willett. It costs around the same as Bulleit and is around the same age, but Willett bottles at around 110 proof whereas Bulleit is at only 90.
  4. Are you looking to store the unopened jars in the pantry or in the refrigerator? If you want to store them in the pantry until opened, then you will have to pressure-can them. Methods and recipes abound.
  5. No similarity. There is no hint of anise flavor.
  6. I wouldn't say it's an "essential" (IMO, the only essentials are Angostura, Peychaud's and the orange bitters of your choice), but they are quite interesting. Can be especially useful to dry out a drink if it's got a touch too much sweetness.
  7. I pretty much only do triple baskets, and it's always worked fine for me. Pressure seems very consistent, although I haven't measured it. Potentially running multiple shots in close succession could make the "at rest" temperature in the group start to creep up, and this would have the effect of raising the overall brewing temperature. Hard to say. I don't really see the RS as a machine intended for cranking out a dozen triples in a row. The thing about espresso machines is that people always seem to want to quantify exactly what it is that makes one machine more consistently turn out better espresso than another, and I don't think it's that simple. In the pre-PID days, temperature instability was a major weakness of the Rancilio Silvia. But a PIDed machine changes that dramatically, and really narrows the gap between the RS and machines costing twice as much. Nevertheless, it is certainly true that there are any number of machines that will outperform it in quality and consistency. I'd guess these start at around $1,500.
  8. I think a great many of the bitters on the market today are horribly overrated. As for underrated or insufficiently know, I would nominate Dutch's Colonial Bitters. It's a bitters that can be used in all the non-exotic contexts in which you might use Angostura, but without bringing all those island spices to the table.
  9. rotuts, you seem to be saying a lot of things about temperature instability at the grouphead for the Rancilio Silvia, but I'm just not sure that is actually all that true for a PIDed machine. Have a look at this graph of a shot run on a PIDed RS. This shows temperatures in the boiler, in the group and, more importantly, in the actual coffee puck itself. What it shows is that once the puck is saturated and brewing begins (at around 6 seconds in), the temperature is remarkably stable -- starting at 200F and rising to 202F by the end of the shot. I suppose an E61 grouphead would be more stable than that. But how much more stability makes a difference?
  10. Espresso is probably the most technology-centric food preparation. You can make a great steak using a crappy pan. But you can't make great espresso on a crappy espresso machine. Generally speaking, and assuming a reasonable but not outlandish level of expertise, the better the espresso machine is the better the average espresso you can produce will be. It's all a matter of finding your sweet spot in price versus quality. I love espresso and cappuccino, but I am satisfied with the quality of the former out of my PID-hacked Rancilio and I don't make enough of the latter to care about the Rancilio's minor shortcomings in this regard. I have no doubt that I could make much better everything using a La Marzocco GS/3. but I just don't care enough to spend sixty-five hundred bucks on it.
  11. slkinsey

    Chicken Pasta?

    It's worth noting that the texture of this kind of noodle is nothing like a traditional texture. It's not anything like you might imagine "spaghetti made out of meat" would be. This is one of the reasons, I think, that the iconic wd-50 preparation stays away from the traditional condiments, etc. Also probably good that its a small serving. It's not necessarily the sort of thing you'd want to eat a big bowl of.
  12. I think this speaks to some larger issues having to do with the balance of creativity and restraint, fecundity and limitation. On this, the great composer Igor Stravinsky had some interesting things to say: It's not just a matter of mastering the classics if you want to know how to make great cocktails. Because you can master the classics without really understanding them, and certainly without learning how to apply those principles to your own imagination. Rather, if you want to make truly great cocktails (or truly great anything) it is a matter of constraining yourself, of doggedly going back over and over the same ground, of discarding those good ideas that never quite became great cocktails, and engaging in a rigorous process of refinement until you've arrived at something. This is a process that takes time and attention. And various bars and bartenders will have a different take on it. At the lowest rung of the ladder are those without the tools to create good cocktails. Getting towards the top of the ladder are two different types among those who understand the principles and have a distinctive voice. There are those who lean towards sprezzatura and abundance in creative output, and there are those who lean towards rigor and curation in creative output. Both approaches can make for awesome bars. Usually, however, the latter type are the ones whose works are more enduring, and it's worthy of note that the revival-era bars with short and highly curated "house cocktail" menus seem to have produced the most cocktails that are "generally accepted as modern classics." So I think it all depends on what you want to do. Arguably, the sprezzatura/abundance approach is more fun. But this is not something a bartender can just jump into. The bartenders who do this well are masters of their craft who have chosen a certain creative path. After however many years of the rigor/selectivity process in which they acquired their skills and refined their aesthetics, they were able to loosen up and explore their creativity. And even these prolific masters discard most of their ideas. As Mitch points out, once you're around a while you get to see plenty of "works in progress" that may or may not make it onto a cocktail menu some day -- and sometimes an idea may take a year or more to find the right expression. "Getting creative" isn't someplace you start from, it's someplace you end up. I think the author is speaking to the large numbers of bartenders who are trying to start off "creative" and ending up with the expected result. This, of course, applies to many other creative endeavors in life beyond creating new libations.
  13. slkinsey


    To be clear: that's not my recipe. I just scaled a recipe that had already been posted.
  14. slkinsey

    Chicken Pasta?

    I think you would use RM if you planned to make the noodles by pureeing the chicken with activa and then piping it into simmering water. Or you could use GM if you wanted to try a technique like Ideas in Food's shrimp noodles (not sure how well that would work with chicken though).
  15. A book to get is The Hamburger: a History by Josh Ozersky, which I believe is the definitive work at this point.
  16. Many of us (myself included) have grown a bit tired of overly precious, whimsical "molecular gastronomy" cooking. I, for one, don't necessarily need to eat another spherified food. It's not clear whether this is what you are talking about when you speak of "modernism in cuisine," however. It seems like you're mostly talking about sous vide tools and techniques. Everything fundamentally comes down to tools, techniques and ingredients. Inevitably whenever a new tool, technique or ingredient is introduced in the kitchen, there will be those who proclaim that "cooking has lost its soul" and that "cooking is supposed to be a fairly low tech activity." There were undoubtedly people who decried the widespread adoption of natural gas-powered stoves over wood-fired stoves, and of course those who protested the use of stoves instead of hooks over the fireplace, and so on all the way back to Throg the Neanderthal who famously said, "cooking? What, tearing the raw flesh off of a dead animal carcass with your teeth isn't good enough for you?" The fact that you comfortably endorse advanced technologies in certain culinary areas (viz. barbecue and espresso) but not in others (butter poached lobster) effectively skewers your own complaint. Because there are those who could argue, for example, that barbecuing is a fairly low tech activity that is meant to be enjoyed to escape the modern trappings we have to deal with on a day to day basis. If this is true for them, then it's true for them. But only for them. It is, of course, a lot easier to make really good barbecue or consistently good espresso if you avail yourselves of these tools and techniques. Meanwhile, certain modernist cooking techniques and technologies make a lot of things easier and more consistent. Just as it became easier to keep a stock just below the simmer for a long time using a gas-powered stove compared to a wood-fired one, it's easier to get a clear and highly extracted stock today using a pressure cooker. And so on. Do you need a sous vide rig to make great butter-poached lobster? Of course not. But it does make it a lot easier to make great butter-poached lobster. I have effectively started cooking all "steak-like" land animal proteins sous vide, because it's just so much easier to get an outstanding result. Some people may like the older ways, and that's cool too. Hey, some people like using a paper map instead of a GPS-enabled device. More power to 'em, I say. Right now, in food writing and in restaurants, we're seeing a lot of discussion and use and experimentation with these tools and techniques because they have only recently become widely known and affordable. A point of comparison might be the explosion in synthesizer-driven pop music that happened in the early 1980s. A big reason this happened was because the Yamaha DX7 suddenly made having a good synthesizer keyboard reasonable affordable, and so tons of pop musicians started using and experimenting with them. Eventually it just became another tool. It's also true, however, that the "deeper understanding" part of modernist cuisine can be tremendously helpful even without using any fancy equipment -- although it's unclear whether this is what you're complaining about. Knowing how to make a perfectly smooth cheese sauce using sodium citrate; knowing I can use a tiny touch of xanthan gum to prevent my creamed spinach from weeping, being able to use a bit of liquid lecithin to emulsify rendered turkey fat into a pressure cooked turkey jus instead of making a flour based gravy... these kinds of things have enabled me to make dishes that are far, far superior to the already pretty good examples I was able to produce before I acquired this knowledge. So if you like throwing your steak on the grill rather than cooking it sous vide, there's nothing wrong with that. That's your choice and I'm sure you have valid reasons that apply to you. But it's a bit contradictory to be railing against certain modern culinary techniques and technologies while taking full advantage of others. You like the techniques and technologies you like and you don't like the ones you don't like. This is true for most people.
  17. Aren't the prongs on the different connectors usually shaped differently depending on type?
  18. slkinsey

    Sous Vide Halibut

    With something like fish, you still don't want to leave it at temperature for a long time. It's not like, say, a steak where leaving it at temperature for an extra hour won't have much of a negative effect, With fish, it would certainly have a negative effect. Which is to say that, while sous vide cooking would certainly make some aspects of preparing the halibut easier, you are still going to have to keep your eye on the timer so that you can pull it out and serve it at the right time. I can't think of any negative effects of the court bouillon. Although my inclination would be to reduce the court bouillon by quite a bit, freeze it into cubes and bag each piece of fish with a cube of court bouillon. There's really no reason to have more liquid in the bag than it takes to surround the fish. I would also recommend leaving out the salt if the fish is going to be sitting in the bag with the court bouillon, as lengthy contact with salt will have a "curing" effect on the fish.
  19. Interesting. This would seem to suggest using iota for slices (e.g., for melted cheese sandwiches) and no iota for cheese sauces (e.g., for mac & cheese). The no-iota cheese slices do seem to get pretty runny for sandwich use -- almost like a cheese sauce between two pieces of bread.
  20. Enrique, how would you characterize the differences in texture, mouthfeel and melting properties?
  21. Yes! I have another name for them but it's probably not suitable for mixed company. For me this may be an allergy thing. According to family lore, I could never eat them. And bad things have resulted when I have had them in adult life. Generally speaking, there are three things I cannot abide: (1) any form of squash; (2) eggplant; (3) any food that can be described as "mucilaginous."
  22. What I want is to not have to do a lot of advance planning if I want to have some grits. I would like to be able to use modern techniques so that I can say, "hey, I'd like some grits" and 30 minutes later be eating high quality artisanal/heirloom grits. I can always freeze presoaked grits in portions, although obviously I would rather have a good method to cook from dry. What I don't want to have to do is decide whether or not I am having grits 12-24 hours in advance, never mind buying an expensive rice cooker I otherwise don't feel the need to have.
  23. Pressure cooking is a far better technique than sous vide for meat stocks and broths.
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