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malachi

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Posts posted by malachi

  1. We went there this last Saturday for dinner.

    Menu:

    Salmon Roe Coronets with creme fraiche

    "Oysters and Pearls" - Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca and Malpeque Oysters and Russian Sevruga Caviar

    (wine with the above was a Champagne from Michel Turgy)

    Salad of Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus, Ruby Red Grapefruit "Confit", Baby Mache and garden tarragon infused mayonnaise

    (wine with the above was the 2003 E. Knoll Grener Veltliner, Felderspiel, Wachau)

    Torchon of Poached Moulard Duck Foie Gras with field rhubarb, celery branch, sauterne-telicherry peppercorn gelee, celery greens and toasted brioche

    (wine with the above was the 2000 JJ Cristoffel Riesling Serrig Wurtzburg Auslese from Mosel)

    Sauted Filet of John Dory with slow roasted Yukon Gold potatoes and Black Truffle coulis

    Fricasee of Maine Lobster "mitts" with spring onions, baby leek batons, glazed pearl onions, mizuna puree and sauce soubise

    (wine with the above two was the 2002 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet "Hameau du Blagny")

    Pan Roasted Four Story Hills Farm Squab with caramelized Sunchokes, Pickled anjou Pears and Nicoise Olives

    Ribeye of Elysian Fields Farm Lam "en Persilliade" with a "cassoulet" of spring pole beans and Jacobsen Farm's thyme infused extra virgin olive oil

    (wine the above two was the 1997 Chaves Hermitage)

    Brebis des Pyrenees cheese with French Laundry granola, young arugula leaves and plumped red currant "gastrique"

    Banana Sorbet with Muscavado Genoise, braised Maui Pineapple, mango pate de fruit and a yogurt caramel crostillant

    "Tentation au chocolat Noisette et Lait", milk chocolate cremeux, Hazelnut Streusel with Madagascar Vanilla ice cream and sweetened salty hazelnuts

    Creme Brule

    Coffee Pot de Creme

    (wine with all the above was the 2000 Olivares Monastrell Dulce)

    The "Oysters and Pearls" was the most amazing of a number of truly amazing dishes. It was almost certainly the most incredible thing I've eaten in my life. The combination of the incredibly rich egg custard, the briny notes of the oyster and the caviar, the sweetness of the tapioca and of the oysters... an astonishing dish and yet perfectly in balance.

    The Lamb was the best piece of lamb I've ever had. It had a perfect crust on the outside and yet was a consistent, perfect medium rare throughout. What made it truly amazing was that it was actually hot (not warm, but hot) in the center. When sliced, there was no gush of liquid - but the liquid in the mouth was hot. It was heavily salted - exactly to the point of no return, but no further. The salt accented not only the richness of the lamb, but also its sweetness.

    The Banana Sorbet desert was an over-the-top exploration of tropical fruit flavours. Each individual component was incredibly concentrated and intense and yet somehow they not only all worked together but in the end added up to something greater than the parts.

    The Grener Veltliner was amazing. If you look at the dish - it's a wine-pairing nightmare. Not only did this wine survive this dish - it improved it. Amazing.

    And the Puligny Montrachet was incredible. The wine of the meal. Wonderful pear and butter, with a hint of smoke in the finish. Notes of mineral to balance it all. Just a perfect wine.

    It absolutely lived up to the hype and to my expectations.

  2. First - learn how to cup coffee. Cupping is the way that professionals evaluate coffees (both in making purchasing decisions when it comes to green beans, and when doing quality assurance on roasted beans). There is a good article on the basics of cupping at Coffee Geek written by Geoff Watts of Intelligentsia. There are also a couple books on cupping available.

    Second - once you learn how to cup coffee you should try to cup regularly with other people who share your passion. It's worthwhile to check out the SCAA cupping wheel to give some structure to the discussion, but the structure should remain pretty flexible. I've cupped with folks who talk about coffee flavours as colours. If it works for you, it works.

    Third - you'll want to cup actual origin coffees and you'll preferably cup them roasted to an optimal roast for the bean. In other words, you will (initially) learn less from blends and should steer away from the dark roasts (at least for a while). I'd suggest reading up on Coffee Review to help you select beans to cup. As a starting point, you might want to consider coffees from Terroir, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown.

    You can, of course, accelerate the above by signing up for an SCAA C-Membership and making the trip out to Seattle this April for the SCAA conference. At least one of the C-Member events is, if I remember correctly, a cupping session with Ken Davids (of Coffee Review fame).

    It's great to read posts like yours.

    The more people who can be convinced to move away from burnt coffee - that burnt coffee is not good coffee - and that coffee should actually taste good the better.

    Thanks.

  3. Honestly, the only truly great pumpkin ale I've had was the 2004 Millenium Pumpkin from Elysian in Seattle. It had a nice hint of spice and that plus the high ABV (it was an Imperial Pumpkin Ale) balanced out the sweetness that I usually find undesirable in pumpkin ales.

  4. i don't want to be a pain in the ass, but... with all due respect...

    I suspect the reason for the Illy pods is that they taste better than most of what is available commercially here.  Consistency is far more important in a commercial setting than it is at home.  Every shot is the same and there is no mess – both are important I suspect.  Microroasters have excellent products, but the blends change often enough that they don't taste the same from year to year.

    OK. let's substitute another ingredient in here why don't we.

    by this logic, Keller should use processed American cheese in his dishes - I mean, artisan cheeses (especially from small providers) change from season to season and year to year and are often just unavailable.

    And, after all, consistency is what matters - right?

    there is no point sourcing one of the excellent locally roasted coffees, right? i mean, it's not like Ecco Caffe (for example) is convenient or anything - it's what? half an hour away?

    I think in any commercial environment unless I were running a coffee shop I would go with pods – the only viable alternative is to use an LM setup with a swift grinder and Linea/FB70; then you’ve got some of the consistency issues resolved but still a mess from the grinds that end up everywhere.

    Again... let's try this with another type of food...

    the trouble with those pesky gas ranges is that they're so inconsistent and messy which is why Keller should be going with pre-prepared food in pouches and then heating them with a microwave.

    there is no defense.

    he sacrifices quality in no other area, no matter what the cost or difficulty. he is uncompromising in this --- except when it comes to coffee where he's willing to serve average to sub-average coffee as (let's be honest) an after-thought.

  5. happy holidays to All!

    dinner is...

    Chianti-braised Short Ribs

    Preserved Lemon Polenta

    Pan-wilted Lacinato Kale with Crispy Shallots and Sherry Vinegar

    1997 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva

    Molten Chocolate Cake with Crystalized Ginger Creme Anglaise

    1997 Maculan Acininobili Torcolato de Breganze

  6. Chianti-braised Short Ribs (with a sauce made from reducing the braising liquid to a syrup and combining it with veal demi)

    Preserved Lemon Polenta

    Pan-wilted Lacinato Kale with Crispy Shallots and Sherry Vinegar

    1997 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva

    Molten Chocolate Cake with Crystalized Ginger Creme Anglaise

    1997 Maculan Acininobili Torcolato de Breganze

  7. Am I weird to think that 150g is a little small to make it worth the effort? 150g is 1/3lb. That's less than a week's worth of coffee. Am I just going to run 3 cycles of this thing on Saturdays to give me 1lb worth or is it 'turn it on and go to work' easy?

    The general idea with home roasting is to have fresh roasted coffee all the time. For this to work out best, you pretty much need to roast a couple times a week. The downside is that you have to roast a couple times a week - the upside is that your coffee is always fresh. In addition, with small batch sizes you gain the ability to try lots of different coffees and lose the stress of worrying about screwing up a big batch of beans (can be a real issue with some super expensive beans, believe me).

    Home roasting is not "turn it on and go to work" -- you'll need to sit over it, watch, tweak... you get the idea.

    Basically, if you're really into having fresh roasted coffee all the time, are willing to put some work into it, and like playing with toys then home roasting is great. If fresh roasted coffee is not that important to you or you don't have the time or you don't like tinkering, it's probably not an ideal solution.

  8. i've eaten at clarklewis twice now.

    honestly, i've got nothing but positives to say about the place.

    now... to be clear... i'm not big on sweets, so i've not had any deserts. but none the less, everything about the place; from the food to the staff to the design to the wine list was very good indeed. if i had to compare it to somewhere, it would be Delfina in San Francisco. it has a similar focus, a similar style and an equally high level of execution.

    particular standouts include:

    - incredible roast suckling pig,

    - an amazing (and shockingly affordable) Barbera,

    - the host who treated us wonderfully when we arrived (sans reservations) during a rush on a weekend night,

    - the feel of the place... a hard to put your finger on sense of "rightness" that just worked for me.

    - a chicory salad that was incredibly good in its understated simplicity.

    it's a great restaurant - and an amazing deal.

    one of the things that made me feel comfortable with the idea of moving to Portland was clarklewis. seriously.

    i haven't eaten everywhere in Portland, but if this is not the best restaurant in Portland then i truly cannot wait to discover what is.

  9. The Zoka video is pretty much aimed (IHMO) at folks who are already professional baristi and want to improve their skills. It is a bit "thin" in that it rushes through a lot of subjects, but I think it's actually a valuable tool - if you already have a firm grasp of the basics.

    I'd suggest picking up the Schomer book Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques from Vivace. This is a really good resource. You can then, after working through it, gain a lot more out of things like the Zoka video and the Vivace videos.

    For what it's worth - it's a good idea (if you're going to pursue this as a career) to join the Barista Guild. This gives you access to a lot of people and a lot of tools that can help you out.

    Finally, the SCAA BGA forum is probably the best source for help with questions of a professional nature.

  10. i think it would be unwise to use a 110v machine in a commercial environment. all it would take would be one big morning rush where more than 50% of the drinks were lattes to make life hellish.

  11. High humidity, moderate temps and low pressure, in my experience, make it easier to pull consistently good shots.

    In other words, they don't make the shots better - they just make it more likely that your shots will be good.

    Of course, the reality is that, because coffee is hygroscopic, very humid conditions result in coffee actually absorbing moisture from the air (rather than losing it). This results in coffee that can pack tighter and will result in slower extraction. In many cases, this can cover poor distribution and tamping technique and can extend the "sweet spot" of a shot.

    Low humidity is the enemy of coffee - causing it to stale quickly.

    High temps are also the enemy for the same reason.

    Finally, direct sun is the enemy as well.

    So... high humidity, medium temps and overcast skies are our friends!

  12. A couple more things....  I've seen mention that the most savvy baristas (of whom there are many) are now advocating against those extra couple taps on the portafilter during and/or after packing.  I'm not sure why - will have to look into that.

    Tapping dramatically increases the odds of channeling.

    If you're going to tap, do so once and do so softly while holding the portafilter up off the counter.

    As for carpal tunnel syndrome - it is a concern. Angled portafilter handles and espresso machines that are installed at proper working height  (which is lower than a standard counter top are a good place to start. There's a new machine on the market (was called Trueh but goes by another name now) that has moved to levers for steam actuation rather than knobs as another way to reduce repetitive motion issues.  Hand tamping remains a bit of a problem and many people are unwilling to move to the Swift auto grind/dose/tamp system.  A better tamp can be achieved by hand if the barista has skills - no question about that. I've been looking at hydraulic lever operated tamping systems and find them appealing but the only one I've located thus far comes only in 53mm or 57mm. Very odd as the standard portafilter size in commercial applications is most often 58mm.

    If you work out your tamp technique and your counter is the right height, RSI problems really should not be a concern.

    I was working on a counter that was too high and developed problems in my shoulder. Counter was modified and shoulder problems went away, but I developed tendonitis in my wrist. With some training, I corrected my grip on the tamper - tendonitis went away. I've had no problems since.

  13. For what it's worth (cribbed from my "Commercial Espresso Tasting" thing I'm finishing up) here are my current favorites.

    Stumptown Hairbender – A very soft and subtle espresso. More velvet glove than steel fist; finessed and polished. A complicated espresso, with lovely sweetness and a caramel fruit finish. Floral and spice aromatics, reddish brown crema with a bit less persistence than desired. A thick, honey-like espresso with a gorgeous Guinness cascade. Very high-toned fruit notes hold through to the finish, where the caramel fruit is balanced by a soft dark chocolate note. Can be perceived as acidic or sour by those expecting a dark roast espresso. A challenging blend, where minute grind, temp and extraction time adjustments had dramatic results. Very nice as a straight shot and truly wonderful in short milk drinks – but gets a bit lost in lattes et al. When poured as a cappuccino it was totally mind-blowing - the fat showcased the smooth balance while the complex flavours and acid in the foundation held up to the milk. This is a coffee lover’s espresso and a barista’s espresso.

    Doma Vito’s Blend – Big and bold, but still balanced – a lovely modern PNW espresso. Pours with a heavy and very persistent red toned crema. Aromas of dark chocolate and burnt caramel lead to a rich and bittersweet first taste. There is a lovely, high-toned caramel apple note and a huge body and mouthfeel. The finish is thick and syrup like, dominated by bitter chocolate. This is a heavy espresso, great for cold or tired mornings. As a straight shot it is intense, but not overwhelming. In short milk drinks it opens up magnificently, dominated by lovely sweet varietal chocolate tones and a soaring fruit-spice-vanilla note and a finish that is wonderfully caramelly.

    Doma Ruby Blend – An amazing personal statement about espresso and taste. This is lovely in the cup, with a gorgeous golden-red crema and lovely honey, fruit and berry aromas. An incredibly complicated espresso, with a round profile and gorgeous mid-toned stone fruit notes on a foundation of polished chocolate and soft roast tones. The finish is bright, with citrus and honey tones. As a straight shot this is lovely and polished - a balanced experience that is soft on the palate. In short milk drinks it softens dramatically, becoming a bit muted though still quite enjoyable. A bit lost in long milk drinks.

    Intelligentsia Black Cat – This is the over-hopped IPA of espressos. Big, bold… it hits like a hammer blow on the palate. The espresso pours thick and dark, with very dark, thick and persistent crema. As straight espresso, this is dominated by strong chocolate and spice notes and a very thick mouth-feel. This is not a balanced espresso – but that’s not the goal. It’s intense and powerful – which has the result of making some drinkers happy, and some unhappy. In particular, there is a "baking chocolate" note in the finish and an “anise” note in the body that some might find off-putting. Thick nut flavours and complicated spice notes dominate the mid-palate, and the finish is pure bittersweet chocolate. There is a hint of caramel in the cup, but overall this espresso trends more towards spice and bitter than sweet or sour and fruit. As a straight shot it is intense and nearly overpowering. In short milk drinks, the chocolate softens, though the spice still cuts through the fats – a very nice drink. In tall milk drinks, the chocolate becomes buttery and sweetness emerges while the spices soften and become balanced. Very nice! This is an espresso for those weaned on the old Seattle style espresso, who want something with balls.

    Vivace Vita – An intensely complicated and personal espresso. Pours with a dark brown and red crema and a fast-moving cascade effect. This has unusual aromatics, dominated by deep spice tones (allspice?) and a warm hummus note. There is an interesting slightly "funky" flavour note similar to what is found in very good Sumatrans. In the mouth, this is a heavy espresso, with a foundation of earthy rustic chocolate and spice, and nice mid-toned fruity acidity. As a straight shot this may not be for everyone - it is intense and concentrated and almost overerwhelming. In short milk drinks the chocolate becomes more refined and the spikey flavour profile rounds out. In tall milk drinks it becomes smooth and polished. I love it in a macchiatto!

    Vivace Dolce - A classic Italian espresso with the most gorgeous Guinness style cascade when pulled correctly. Beautiful red-brown crema that was thick and persistent. A very very balanced espresso. Smooth, with notes of honey and semi-sweet chocolate. Bright fruit - plum and berry and a hint of pear in the finish - balance the incredible sweetness. The finish is smooth and heavy on the caramel. This is one of the true classics of American espresso. Pulled as a straight shot, preferably ristretto, this is to many the benchmark for the style. It's a fabulous drink - well worth trying, and for many worth adopting. In short milk drinks it flattens out and is entirely lost in tall milk drinks.

    Zoka Palladino - Another classic Pacific Northwest espresso - but this time softened and smoothed out. Thick reddish crema that cascaded gorgeously when pulled. Beautiful floral aromas with a spicy pepper and berry note. In the cup this is a sweet and soft espresso with interesting spice tones and some mid-palate fruit. Hints of roasty smoke and a late palate bitter bite lead to a dried cherry and caramel finish. As a straight shot this strikes a mid-point between the intense and almost harsh flavours of some PNW espressos and the classic Italian style. It is medium bodied and sweet - but with some roast notes. In short milk drinks the sweetness and smoky tones are transformed into a lovely milk chocolate flavour and the bitterness is softened. Very enjoyable indeed. In tall milk drinks, the coffee is assertive enough to hold up to the milk, becoming more noticably fruity and losing some of the spice notes.

  14. Also...

    Mothers - breakfast once, lunch once. Really very good comfort food. Enjoyable. Nothing fancy, just tasty. Perfect for the situation. Sadly, incredibly busy - but probably worth the wait.

    Stumptown, downtown - coffee three times, beers once. Awesome. One of the best coffee bars in the US. A gorgeous space, great coffee and a really good selection of niche beers (La Chouffe on tap!!!). If this were local to me, I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven.

    Stumptown, Belmont - coffee once. A nice, cozy, bustling neighborhood coffee bar. Great coffee, fun place.

    Portland is a really good place.

    I liked it. A lot.

  15. Thanks so much for the suggestions.

    NASCORE was great, Portland is fantastic. We had a really good time.

    Let's see... to report...

    clarklewis - dinner, no reservation, two people, friday night. A very stylish room, excellent service. It has a really nice feel - very hip, but not pretentious. We had a bunch of different things, including Heirloom Tomatoes served simply with sea salt and Olive Oil, Mussels with Fennel and Chili, Tagliatelli with Pork Sugo, Potato Gnochi with Truffle and Suckling Pig. Each of the dishes was at the very least quite good - and some were truly excellent. Standouts were the mussels and the tagliatelli. The mussels were an excellent illustration of how one should treat topnotch ingredients. All aspects of the dish served to enhance and frame the flavours of the mussels. Wonderful. The tagliatelli was simply, homey and perfectly balanced. With the meal we had a wonderful (and affordable) Barbera. Service was professional and smooth. Overall - a great meal.

    Paley's Place - dinner, reservation, two people, saturday night. A somewhat dated room, very good service. Again, we tried a bunch of things, but sadly this time I can only remember a few of them - and for the most part not for good reasons. There was a mussel dish that, were it not for the comparison with the clarklewis mussels, would have been very enjoyable. At an ingredient level, the mussels were equally excellent - but in this case, the prep served less to accent the quality of ingredient than to create something one would serve with less high quality mussels. There was a Beet Salad which featured one tiny quarter beet and a huge chunk of bacon on the side of the plate (odd and unbalanced), a risotto that had obviously been reheated, and steak that seemed like it had been cooked while still cold. Overall, this was not a good meal. Not only was the execution off on most of the dishes, there was a feeling of complacency... a feeling of self-satisfaction, like a restaurant resting on its laurels. And, of course, it didn't help that the meal actually cost more than the one at clarklewis.

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