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Hobbes

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  1. My personal favorite is Ching Ching Cha in Georgetown. The combination of the space, service and of course the tea offerings can't be beat. Space wise patrons sit on big cushions on low platforms. Nice natural light from skylights, calming space. Service is personable, and the staff know a lot about their extensive (and sometimes rare) offerings. I really like their oolong tea served out of really tinny tea pots. The Pu-Erh teas are also wonderful, which have a deep smokey/earthy quality which comes from the tea being aged in caves. Dining here is also good, the food, as I remember (I have not eaten here in a long time) is also tasty. Ching Ching Cha is one of the best in town, by far. Has anyone been to the Blue Duck Tavern's tea library/cellar. The tea room has well over 53 teas on offerings and has a tea sommelier that has the knowledge to guide their patrons in matching the food to their teas. Check out this article about it in the Washington City Paper from last July. .hobbes
  2. Hobbes

    Becoming a chef

    Welcome Bordelaise! I would agree with what has been said before, that you should nurture your daughter's passion to become a professional chef but to also constructively do so. Busboy is right, if your daughter truly wants to cook professionally I would have her get her feet wet first by having her help out in in a respectable kitchen where she can learn the tools of the trade and see how it is on the front lines so to speak instead of diving in head first and leaving school for a full-time apprenticeship all at once. Here in the United States, in my experience, chef's are very responsive to eager individuals who want to learn the craft of their (ie the chef's) take on cuisine. I got my first restaurant job (in the Garde Manger station), here in DC, when I was about 20 and without any previous restaurant experience. I got this gig because I was eager to learn from this chef and he was willing to teach me as an apprentice because he could just see my deep passion for food and learning. Ultimately in about a months time I was let go because I just lacked the technical skills required to do the job but the passion was still there. So in a years time I went to culinary school (the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan) to match my passion with technical knowhow. I would suggest your daughter do a modification of what I did by offering her time to a chef on the weekends or other free time (once or twice a week) so she can figure if she likes what she see, no pressure to do anymore, just a time to feel things out. As for my two cents and a warning, from my personal experience in the restaurant biz, as a line cook, passion will only get one so far in this hectic and stressful line of work. As I am sure anyone here who is also a line-cook, or has been one, can attest that this biz can be thankless most or some of time time. The trick is that you love to cook so much that the negative parts of the job just don't matter, in this case the ends do justify the means. I put myself in this category, that my passion will fuel me through the thick and thin (low pay, no benefits, very long hours usually in excess of 50 hrs per week or more and this is a bare minimum (I did 70+ 6 days a week)). To be truefully honest after the years went on, me cooking on the line, and loving every minute of it, it took its tole. I am now in a place where I need to take my very accomplished career as a line cook, off the line because physically I can't provide what my passion can. Physically working as a line cook makes me ill even-though my passion is right there at 110%. Passion is a good thing but I have found it is not limitless (and can be easily tapped because of the work demand to preform quickly, 110% of the time, and depending on how refined the restaurant is, never mess up, perfection is not an idea it's the main goal). I would heed this warning, especially in this industry, you have to know how to take care of yourself or at least in my case, burn out can occur. Thanks for posting and good luck in your daughter's search! (PM me if you'd like, love to chat more) Hobbes
  3. Hobbes

    The Hot Sauce Topic

    I have to second you on your favs as my fav hot sauces as well. I had Marie Sharps Fiery Hot for the first time way back in '94 and have been addicted to it ever since. Its heat is punchy but also has flavor by the way of the carrot juice base. Got ta' luv it! Bufalo Chipotle is awesome with its intense somkey and vinegar tang. Have to add another sauce to the list, Pain 100%. Yes it has a stupid name, like a lot of hot sauces out there but Pain 100% has heat and flavor and is great on chicken and steak or other grilled items. -Hobbes-
  4. Hey there, I would love to comment on molecular gastronomy as it applies to Chicago but really can only comment on my own experiences via Moto, since I was part of the opening team and I have not yet had a chance to eat Chef Achatz or Chef Bowles cuisine. I have since moved out the the Chicago area (I now live in DC) I have not yet read the article. Usually the Chicago Mag dose not post their articles but if by chance someone comes across an online version I would love to see it. Moto in its conception was built to explore the side of food as a gastronomic and conceptual experience. Food as tool, to explore new flavors, textures, and service with a myriad of combinations. These combinations are forged to create a new place in the diner's mind, as a catalyst to experience new sensations and ways to think and feel about food. This conceptual element upon the dining experience is art it self. Moto's food has a goal in mind, as dose modern (or avant garde) art; to open the viewer (or eater in this case) to a new way of thinking or feeling. Moto is a huge success in this goal and not only is developing this school of thought in Chicago (along with Alinea and Avenues) but on a national (international) level as well. Cantu has said he wants to only create what is new and not use techniques to get products or results that a chef has used previously. As example, frozen foie gras powder. At Moto they will use a paco jet to get frozen powders or "sorbets" but will try very hard not to recreate the wheel. Cantu really dose not what his chefs to read cookbooks as a borrowing tool for completed dishes but used as inspiration I think he would be ok with. As ChefGEB said above and agree with as well: Chicago has always been ahead of the curve in the restaurant industry by setting the standard the rest of the country's chefs go by. This was true in the 1980's with Charlie Trotter's (with helping the country's restaurants get behind the "seasonal movement") and now it is true, more than ever ,as the country looks towards Chicago as Bowles, Achatz and Cantu lead the way (and of course Spain, with Adira's forging of this movement). . . . . . . .Wow I miss Chicago -Hobbes-
  5. Hobbes

    best cheap knife set?

    I am surprised that no one has yet to mention Chicago Cutlery as a good economical choice. I believe that Chicago Cutlery was one of the first to make economical, entry-level, quality knives. Have they cheapened in quality over the years or are they still good buys? I remember my mother telling me how much she loved her Chicago Cutlery set back in her first kitchen. I remember, as a kid, using some of those same knives and they were still sharp and did the job of cutting up dinner. Over at amazon you can get a 10 piece block set for $59 and reviewers seem to like the knives as well. My family has a beach house and they love to cook but did not want to lug their quality knives back and forth between houses or buy more higher-end knives so they bought Martha Stewart Everyday knives at Kmart. Yes shudder to think buy anything from Martha Stewart (or so is the popular opinion here on egullet it seems, I have never had a problem with her show BTW) but the 8 inch german steel, full tang knife, had some heft and was sharp enough to do the job. Over at Kmart you can get a Martha Stewart 11 piece set for $50. **edited to add the following** My question is why do you need to buy the knives in a set? In the long run you will be getting far better quality, and most likely cheeper, by buying a few high quality knives to fit your cutting needs piecemeal and be gone with that garnish-swivel-knife that its only purpose is to turn apples into birds that comes in those ubiquitous As-seen-on-tv boxed sets. Of the countless knives that I have around my house and knife bag I truly only use 4 knives for all my prep needs. My 10 in chef knife, My Santoku Japanese vegetable knife for quick chopping, a paring knife and a japanese petty (utility knife). The rest I really do not need and I am a professional cook. If you want to get picky, add a flexible slicer and boning knife but the question you really need to ask is what do you want to cut? If I could choose one knife that would be my chef knife and really I do not "need" any other. By the way dose anyone out there know anything about Daniel Boulud's DBK line of kitchen knives? Are they a good cheeper alternative to the top standbys (ie Henckels, Wusthof, etc). Hobbes
  6. Hobbes

    Melon Soups

    This recipe for Soupe glacée de melon a la tomate off the Oliviers & Co web site is one of the best cold melon soups I have had. I have taken this soup to an egullet Heartland function and it was a major hit. I chose to use cantaloup as my melon choice. To this recipe I added Verjus plus a very small amount of lemon juice for acid. To add to the soups floral notes I added some pink peppercorns and a drop of honey while cooking. I used roma tomatoes to the base of the soup and used a variety of heirloom tomatoes cut into concasée plus the olive oil I used to make the soup, and fleur de sel for garnish. Now that I think about it I may have used some green tomatoes along with the romas to add some brightness to the soup. Rresults are absolutely awesome especially if you use one of the quality olive oils sold by Oliviers & Co (I used an Andalusian variety). Enjoy (while the melons and tomatoes are still at their height in flavor) --Hobbes
  7. Hobbes

    Le Lan - Chicago

    gmi3804 I am in complete agreement with you, consistency in product and in service is the hallmark of quality and imperative for a upper echelon rating and experience. In my second post I was just relaying an article that shows that both Chef Arun and Chef Roland seem to be content in many ways to keep Le Lan in flux so to speak and really holding back my oppion because I have not yet dined there myself. I will offer my opinion by piggy-backing on other's dining experiences and other articles in the media. This constant flux, I feel, will eventually lead to mediocrity if the Chefs do not refine and tune in to their strengths and relay confidence in their products (service and food). Ultimately this alone could be one of Le Lan's Akillies heal. Your experience at Le Lan communicated to me that there is something lost in translation when the two top toques joined forces, they just seem confused and this article seems to convey this as well, in the chefs own words. The only way constant re-evolution and flux can be successful in a restaurant environment is that the techniques utilized are 100% quality and portrayed in confidence; not mediocrity (wishy-washyness). It seems that what techniques Le Lan wants to use by the Chefs themselves is in question and until then I feel that Le Lan is sadly in trouble. I am ready and waiting for Le Lan's ends to meet and their namesake, the orchid, fit to a 'T' where there is a synergy between service and food where confidence is conveyed with a deft hand of simplicity. I found this synergy at Gramercy Tavern and Aquavit when I dined there in 2003 and at Jean Georges NYC when I worked there as a cook. Like you a place like this, if done well, I relly love as well. I have my fingers crossed. -Hobbes **Edited to clarify some points
  8. Hobbes

    Le Lan - Chicago

    Your impressions of Le Lan gmi3804, along with other posters here, seems to describe a level of confusion that is being translated into the dining experience at once dubbed "Chicago's most widely anticipated restaurant opening" by Food & Wine magazine. No doubt Chef Roland and Arun are 4 star chefs in their own kitchens but dose combining the two superstars into one kitchen equal 8 stars or confusion; dose the old adage apply in this case; too many chef spoil the soup? For myself I will leave that question unanswered until I get an opportunity to eat there myself and assess Le Lan's essence. I am posting here today after reading the article Dynamic Duo in the new edition of Chicago's Newcity that poses the question, "Can super chefs Arun and Roland team up to take Le Lan to great heights? Or will egos collide? Read on" It seem to me after reading this article that even Chef Arun and Roland are questioning the direction and inspiration they want Le Lan to follow. It seems that in the chefs' own words that the restaurant is in flux and that is the way it should be. In the article the chefs both discussed changing the concept of the the deccor by adding a lounge space upstairs allowing there to be more space in the main dining room to adding more French touches. "I didn't plan to have the whole thing Asian," Sampanthavivat says. And though the lounge upstairs should be more West meets East than East meets West, "We have to add more French design, since we have Roland who is a French chef, we might as well stay with his expertise." Food concepts seem to even be a struggle the article alludes to. "...Sampanthavivat now relays him an earlier question, regarding how they will treat traditionally heavier French food in the light, airy environment of Le Lan. Both nod and smile, acknowledging that this task has been much harder than combining the talents of two food experts". excerpt from article: After reading this article it seems that Chef Arun and Roland are really being open and experimenting and defining and keeping Le Lan as a 'work in progress.' This I see could translate into the dining room as confusion on the part on the diner. -Hobbes
  9. Hobbes

    Le Lan - Chicago

    Stepping up to the plate =R= Hey All, Just IMHO the fact that chef de cuisine Andy Motto is at the helm of Le Lan should not be considered such a travesty as Metromix wants us to think. Now I have not eaten at Le Lan yet so the proof will be in the pudding so to speak when I actually eat there. But I already have high expectations that my experience will be a good one. I have had a chance to work with Andy Motto on a couple of occasions and really respect the vision and drive he has towards what he says he will strive to make the experience for the customers top notch. The goal of Le Lan is to blend the cuisines of France and Vietnam in flavors and combinations we have not had before, like bitter almond and olive with chocolate (as a savory dish). Le Lan is not supposed to be super formal. Of course there will be attention to detail like any service should be coming from such pedigree of Arun and Roland but in a less stuffy setting. These negative reviews are disappointing but we should not be so quick to blame this less than lack luster food some egullers have experienced solely on the shoulders of Chef de Cuisine Andy Motto. He has been described to me by many of his formal colleagues at Charlie Trotter's as very talented chef with a wizard like palate. I have friends coming into Chicago and Le Lan is on the top of my list of joints I would like to venture to and I most defiantly will report back on my experiences aftwards to see if my face to face impression of the Chef de Cuisine fits my actual experience with the food and the restaurant as a whole. Hobbes
  10. Thanks maggiethecat, All the credit should go to InventoLux. With his drive, determination and passion he has brought together a small team of cooks that not only work together well but are able to push the envelope of Moto's cuisine. I enjoy every minute at Moto and can not stress enough how mind opening it is to work under InventoLux as my chef. And as Invento said it would be great to see all of you al Moto. Hobbes
  11. Hobbes

    Monsoon Restaurant

    I went to Monsoon Restaurant a couple of months ago and it was a good experience and the food and service was of a quality and consistency that I would return. The only true complaint I have about Monsoon is that it is kind of pricey. For my first course I had: Scallops Cardamom and fennel-crusted scallops seared and served on a bed of truffle sooji The scallops were seared so that the center of the shellfish was still translucent, just the way to prepare scollops so they do not turn into rubber balls. The crust was on one side which was aromatic with a spicy kick. Other spices must have been used besides the cardamom; otherwise the dish would have been too sweet with cardamon but there was balance throughout this superb dish. The sooji (which has been described to me as just plain semolina flour) was prepared in a creamy and acidic sauce not much unlike the flavor and consistency of mayonnaise. The amount of truffle used in the sooji was just right and did not overpower the dish. The sweet succulent flesh of the plump scallops was in balance with the aromatic crust which combined well with the woodsy (read truffle) and acidic tartness of the sooji. One word: Tasty. For my main course: Pork Chop Grilled bone-in pork chop seasoned with cumin, black mustard seeds and chili paste, served with potato and daikon radish dauphine, lemongrass cream, and limequat chutney The flavors in this dish were spot on. The crust on the pork chop was very spicy with bold aromatic flavors that typify Indian cuisine's larder. I would have to say this crust was very pungent but at the same time did not overpower the flavor of the pork, I could sill taste the meat. The garniture on the dish served as a foil to open the pallet back up once again after eating the pork. The cream of the dauphine helped balance the pungency of the dish. The chutney was very acidic with citrus flavor and helped the pallet much like a dry white wine with citrus and pithy notes would. But this dish was not perfect. The pork was a little over done, not as juicy as it could have been. The dauphine was a little under-seasoned and needed a little more salt to wake up the raw cream taste and the flavors of lemongrass. (I do not remember tasting lemongrass in this dish). I had a Honig sauvignon blanc which I thought went well with both the fist corse and the second one as well. The food is pricey but a good experience none the less and is worth having. Hope this helps. Hobbes
  12. Hobbes

    Revolving Restaurants

    The Days Inn (where guests for Jenny Jones used to stay) is now the chic W. link to restaurant It says it still rotates, anyone been there? Talking about having difficulty finding your seat in a revolving restaurant. I was told by the sous chef at the W Hotel Lakeshore (formally the Days Inn) that during service the restaurant does not revolve because the servers had a hard time locating their tables. I believe that this revolving observation room is used during large banquets and other special functions. I was also told that this is the only hotel in downtown Chicago that has 360 views of the city and the lake. The most memorable revolving restaurant I have been to was at 2970 m above sea level at the The Schilthorn Piz Gloria . This restaurant is a top the mount Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland area of Switzerland. The food at the restaurant was forgettable but the views were outstanding, even breathtaking. On second thought thier goulash was not too bad. I was there 2 times during the summer but plan to go back asap in the winter so I can ski. I took a day where I hiked up the mountain to the observation center/restaurant and then hiked down again. This was an amazing trip. Hobbes
  13. Hobbes

    Pronouncin Foie Gras

    I am in the same situation and me not being a suave frenchman with correct pronunciation to boot I consulted the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to get the correct phonetic spelling of these words along with an audio clip of the word being spoken. Found it to be a big help. This is what I found for each word's phonetic spelling and audio clip: (1)Foie gras- Pronunciation: fwä-'grä (2)prix fixe- Pronunciation: 'prE-'fEks, -'fiks (3) vichyssoise- Pronunciation: "vi-shE-'swäz, "vE- (4)mille-feuille- Pronunciation A: mEl-'fwE Pronunciation B: mEl-f[oe]y (5) Montrachet- Pronunciation: "mO n-trä-'she (6) sommelier- Pronunciation: "s&-m&l-'yA Without a guide to Pronunciation Symbols I would have no idea how to read the phonetic spellings above so I added one off the Merriam-Webster Dictionary so at least I can understand my post. Here is a guide to pronouncing french. I do not know how good it is because I do not speak a lick of French but going to the Webster Dictionary I did get some help to this sitcky problem. Hobbes
  14. Hobbes

    Tako Grill in Bethesda

    Malawry I have heard that Sushi Taro is good for sushi but for the ultimate sushi experience I hear, hands down, is Sushi-Ko in Glover Park (2309 Wisconsin Ave). But it will be hard to beat my meal I had at Tako Grill last week end. Later, Hobbes
  15. Just last night I had a really refreshing experience at Tako Grill in Bethesda. For my appetizers I had one of the best Tuna Toro sashimi I have had in a long time. I got 5 individual one oz. sashimi portions garnished with fresh shiso leaves, daikon, lemon wedges and fresh grated wasabi-root. The tuna flesh was so unctuous and so delicately flavored of the sea I bypassed the soy sauce and used the garniture to accent these wonderful, super fresh, morsels. Is this one of the only restaurants in the Washington DC area that is using fresh wasabi-root? I just recently moved to the Chicago area a little over a year ago and before that I have lived in the DC metro area for 10+ years and do not remember coming across fresh wasabi. I also got as an appetizer of fresh matsutake mushrooms which were grilled and seasoned with just the addition of lemon juice. "It is very spicy and clean, like no other foodstuff. Japanese chefs treasure this delicacy, and their preparations reveal how to bring out its strong fragrance and individual flavor". The lemon juice brought out the natural spicy and smokey flavor of the mushroom which has very meaty flesh. At the time I thought of the mushrooms as very woodsy and indicative of a mushrooms flavor but much more intense. I enjoyed this very simple preparations but would love to explore other techniques to play with this mushrooms distinctive flavor. As the main entree I had Negimaki (Scallions wrapped in thinly sliced beef served with teriyaki sauce). This dish I have had in other Japanese restaurants in the DC Metro area (namely at Matuba which is right across the street from the Tako Grill). It is served very well here with a not too sweet and balanced teriyaki sauce that is played off by the fresh scallion flavor. Overall a tasty meal that stays to its simple roots of Japanese cuisine but with subtle flourishes (and surprises) with exotic mushrooms and superbly fresh fish selections (and ingredients). Can't say more than that people should try it out; with no doubt that people already have. While I am still in town I am going to Jose Andres MiniBar; have heard the buzz about it and now must try it out. Can't wait for the whimsical and ground breaking experience I am going to have (with the great reviews I have read here on egullet and the washington post magazine to wet my palette). I miss DC, it is good to be home; even if it is for a short while. I might as well catch up with what I have missed out on while I have been away. Hobbes
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