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Nathan P.

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  1. Nathan P.

    Brining Steaks

    I say break out that cup of Bourbon, get 'em liquored up and serve the steaks rare in a dimly lit room. They will never notice If I have sensitive eaters over I just skip the steaks and do a braise. Well done but tender and juicy meat that even the non food obsessed seem to appreciate. Nathan
  2. Just an FYI the new chef at Soif as of a week or so ago is Chris Avila who worked with Chef Kinch at Sent Sovi and Manressa and worked previously at Theos. I know someone who ate there last week and said it was fantastic. That being said I have been a fan of the food at Soif and while the portions are not large I have never had a problem getting full and I am not a small eater. IMO the execution of their dishes is better than Pearl Alley and Avanti (Oswald is equal or better) and I feel that there food is a bit more complex. I think Pearl Alley was better years ago and I preffered Avanti when it leaned towards being more italian and less cal/med. Avanti does offer a nice wine and cheese program and either Pearl or Avanti has a more relaxed dining room than Soif. My choices would go: 1. Oswald or Soif, 2. Avanti, and 3. Gabriella or Pearl Alley. Part of my difference of opinion with Tana's comments may come from her comment that "those guys know what to do with fresh fruits and vegetables". These restaurant's tend to, IMO, prefer simpler preperation of the local produce in the currently popular cal/med style. Since I tend to prep my vegetables like this at home and I buy from the same farms that these chefs do and tend to shop daily for maximum freshness these dishes do not stand out as much for me. I have not eaten at Theo's but it looks interesting (a bit pricey for SC!) http://www.theosrestaurant.net/menu/ Soif menus can be seen at http://www.soifwine.com/menu.html though they tend to change frequently so these atend to be out of date. Nathan
  3. I recently purchased a thai granite version like the one here: http://importfood.com/thaicookware.html . I picked mine up at an Asian cookware store in San Francisco where they are about half the price seen on the above site. It is very heavy and I feel like I can pound it as hard as I want with no fear of breakage (except for maybe my counters ) which is handy when trying to break down woodier items like lemongrass. I have also used it succesfully for pesto, spice grinding, curry pastes etc.. Nathan
  4. While there seems to be an increasing interest in regional Italian cuisine with both chefs and consumers, we seem to have hit a brickwall in adopting many multi-course dining options outside of the 'higher end' Italian restaurants. (Perhaps it is different in NY) Now I assume that this is mostly the result of our national love of pasta, at least pre-Atkins hysteria, and that most customers expect a pasta dish to be a complete meal and there meat course to come with starch but this is frustrating for those of us that want a mid-size pasta course followed by a smaller than full entree second/contorno. I am curious to learn how many of your customers order this way, if you see more restaurants embracing the pasta course, and how you manage portion size in this environment. (unless of course you have a totally enlightened customer base ) And a personal thanks for your shows. My increased knowledge of Italian cuisine and the techniques I have picked up have significantly improved my own cooking- of course my olive oil consumption has tripled but that has to be a good thing. Thanks for your time, Nathan
  5. Nice recommendation. I was in the city today killing a bit of time before heading to the Giants game. Decided to stop in the Shanghai Dumpling Shop for an early dinner since it is so convenient to the ballpark. 2 of us sampled the Shanghai Steam Dumplings, Pan Fried Pork Buns, Shanghai Stir Fry Noodles, and Soy Braised Lions Head Meatballs. This was a huge amount of food for $25 and I think we brought home half the noodles, 2 out of 3 meatballs and a few 'potstickers'. I don't think I have ever had Shanghai food before but I quite enjoyed the meal. I ended up liking the steamed dumplings more than the fried ones- Gary: as you seem to always to be involved in xlb discussions and found these to fall short of the mark, I would love to hear what you think the best ones in the Bay Area are so I could sample the competition. I quite liked the texture of the thick noodles that were stir fried with a bit of cabbage, a leafy green and a bit of pork. The condiment reminded me (in quantity) of the balance of good italian pasta making allowing the noodles to be the star with the sauce adding flavor and texture highlites. The meatballs were very tender and I thought there large size helped to balance the braising sauce to meat ratio since the sauce was fairly salty. Is the sauce supposed to be extremely thick? I would love to hear about other specialties of Shanghai food are worth looking for. Other than the need to order dumplings I felt at a bit of a loss trying to find which items to order off the menu that would be good examples of the cuisine. Was General Tso from Shanghai? We did get a bit of attention in a slow walk thorough by one of the kitchen staff but I could not figure out wether that was the 'Who are these gringos that have ordered such a fine selection of our dishes?' or the "Who are these gluttons who order enough food to feed a family of 5?'. Nathan
  6. Very interesting lesson. I was thinking about trying the Kashmiri lamb chops and had a couple of questions. I assume that with the cook time that these chops end up fairly well done? I am also curious about the initial milk cooking process and what this does for the dish. Oh, and when the recipes call for red chile powder is this cayenne or ? Thanks, Nathan
  7. I'm a couple weeks into using my new Ryusen (same knife as lesser priced Hattori) 240mm chefs and have no regrets. I do find that I prefer a german knife for harder/thick vegetables. For example cutting planks out of a large carrot seems to work better with a bit more heft. Once the planks are cut though, cutting batons and dicing them is great with the much sharper Ryusen. And in fine work there is really no contest. Of course wether the premium for this knife vs. the Shun knife is worth it is up to you. I decided that the I preffered a western style handle and I am of the general opinion that the world is a more interesting place with small busineses and craftsmen around. These factors combined with the gorgeous look of the knife justified the premium for me. In the blog linked above Dean chose the Shun knife (how is it cutting for you Dean?) which also has a VG10 core. My Ryusen is supposedly a bit sharper on delivery due to a lower sharpening angle but in a few month the sharper knife will belong to whoever has the best knifesharpener or sharpening skills. Good luck in your search, Nathan
  8. Nathan P.

    Quick Pasta

    I will add a second for the Mario Batali Basic tomato sauce at Trader Joes. The ingredients list is: imported italian plum tomatoes, fresh onions, inported italian EVOO, fresh carrots, salt, fresh garlic, and organic thyme. Its hard to find anything as basic as this at the larger grocery stores and since I have been using his recipe when I make my own they are fairly similar. I don't use tomato sauce straight very often, but since this one is so basic I feel comfortable using this to make a quick Amatriciana, or add it to a ragu or braise when I don't have any homemade around. I don't recall the price but it is certainly nowhere near the super premium $8-$10 jars that are in upscale groceries. Nathan
  9. Its going to take a lot of will power to have those two knives at home and not try them out, Dean. Is there a market for a barely used chef's knife? I brought home the Ryusen 240mm chefs this afternoon. Insanely sharp though I should admit my other knives are in in need of sharpening. I'm looking forward to comparing it with a small Henkels chefs that is due back from a sharpener on Friday. I put it to use for the first time tonight and it performed well. Very small shallots that were bone dry and not crushed at all, chiffonade parsley, see through apple slices. My cooking has been rustic in 2003 but I think I will have to become a bit more formal this year- Everything in brunoise! FYI I also confirmed that Ryusen is the maker of the Hattori knives (the 'budget' line). Fred at Japanwoodworker told me the following: "The Ryusen is a small factory with about a 8-10 employees located in a small town called Takefu in Fukui Prefecture. In the old days, Takefu was known for its swords and armor. Ryusen does all the work themselves."... "it is a molybdenum/cobalt steel hardened to Rockwell 62-63. The Damascus material is made from a forge lamination on nickel and steel. There is considerable hand work involved in making the Damascus material as well as forging and shaping the blade. By the way, Hattori also sells these knives which they obtain from Ryusen." Thanks to everyone for the info on this and previous knife threads that helped me find this knife. Nathan
  10. In my parallel knife search, I made it to Alameda today to visit the Japan Woodworker ( japanwoodworker.com ). I am fairly lo-tech so I won't be posting photos but if anything piques your interest there are photos at their site. On the way out of my price range area I got to see the $1,200 Hattori chefs knife that has been posted previously on this site. I expected it to look shinier in person than the photos but it is fairly grey and sort of looks like a circuit board. Perhaps if i hit the lotto this year.... Also quite nice were the Fujiwara knives but with the 8 1/4" chefs knives at $270-$450 these were above what I am looking to spend. I was hoping to like the Kiyotsuna knives as having an interesting option at $100 would be very tempting. These knives are "Swedish steel core between two layers of low carbon stainless steel" hardened to R c62. however the handle was just clearly not for me. Both the Dojo Blue Steel Knives and the Kasui Ink Pattern Knives felt to light for this application so I quickly ruled them out. Next up were the Ryusen knives. The cobalt alloy knife had a metal handle which I disliked and was compounded by the handle feeling hollow. The Ryusen Damascus knife was much better and my favorite knife of the day. The handle fit my hand very well and I liked the shape of the blade. Has anyone else ever used one of these? I would love to see one of these next to one of the Hattori's as these seem to be of similar design. I was also curious as to whether this is the same knife as at bladegallery as the pricing was different. If anyone is looking for a heavy Japanese knife, Ryusen has a 9.5" heavy knife that is 3/16" and weighs 16oz- felt like it would be more usefull on a small tree than vegetables. A big surprise was how much I liked a heavy duty 6 1/2" Atsu Deba knife from Tosagato Hocho. It was heavy, looked well made, the unfinished wrought iron looked much nicer than in photos, the handle was comfortable and at $35 it was very affordable. I wished I had paid more attention to the rest of the line but I was focused on chefs knives. Are there drawbacks to the carbon steel (blue or white) sandwiched between wrought iron? Semi-related I got to check out my first chisel edge knife (a nice Hirotomo Deba), and the cheaper Masahiro cleavers. To confuse myself more I stopped by Sur La Table for a second look at Messermeister and a first at Shun. The Shun was pretty nice and had a good feel to it. Not as nice as the Ryusen but still a decent option. At this stage I find myself wanting the Ryusen, wishing I could see the Hattori, with a solid underlying level of guilt as I doubt my knife skills warrant anything more expensive than a MAC/Messer etc. We need a Korin on th eleft coast as they have a few more options around the $100 mark. Oh, and those Masahiros at knifemerchant sound intriguing too though they look a bit less curved than I like. Nathan
  11. Man do I feel your pain. I am also starting a chefs knife quest with some Christmas loot and it is driving me nuts. I have had very similar experiences going into knife and cutlery stores where I am just about begging to be given the hard sell and they barely want to give you one knife laid out on a velvet pad like you are in a jewelery store. I keep hoping to find a visionary shopkeeper who pulls out a cutting board and a bag or carrots and tells me try out a few! My favorite so far in the German category is the Messermeister Meridian Elite (did you like these?) While I am sure it is a fine knife I have spent too much time reading old threads here about exotic Japanese knives and am now curious to see if I might prefer one of these. I am going to try and make a trip to the Japanwoodworker.com next week and I will post if I find any promising candidates. I have been able to hold MAC and Kasumi knives and liked both of them but I hate to think there is something more exoctic from a smaller niche producer that I could get. In addition to not being able to test drive a knife in stores and the lure of exotics (like those Hattoris posted recently) only available via mail order, I would hate to move to a Japanese knife and then in 3 months wish I had the heft of a German style knife. Has anyone had regrets in this area or felt the need to use a heavier knife frequently? Good Luck Dean, Nathan
  12. Nathan P.

    Mass produced lagers

    Sierra does have a line of mustards if that counts. On the Anchor front, I recently got a mini 1 on 1 tour of the brewery and got to check out the stills in the basement. This is definately a sideline and I don't think it affects the quality of Anchors beers. I will also add my vote for Pilsner Urquell with an honorary mention for Tsing Tao which I think is surprisingly good as the default chinese restaurant beer. Not on the mass production scale, Lagunitas in California makes a nice pils. Back in my college days when my social life forced me to pass a fair amount of bud/the beast/etc. across my micro-brew taste buds the German cousin of one of my roomates shared a bizarre trick with us. The 'Dirty One' involved adding a small splash of Coke to your mass market lager. This darkened the color a bit and seemed to cut thorugh some of those "alternative grain" flavors but we may have just been drunk Nathan
  13. I'd like to throw another into the mix: Pho Hoa. Not the best pho around but they are right at around 50 locations and anyone who wants to put a pho restaurant on every corner cant be all bad! phohoa.com Nathan
  14. I am living a block off of a major street (Northern Cal.) and the local Ice Cream man always goes tearing past my house with the music going as he heads down the street towards where he thinks his clients are. Now that I am in my 30's I have decided it is un-becoming to chase him down the street so I just sit in and sulk! If I were to ever catch him there would be only one choice- The Super Bomb Pop- THey sell a smaller version in the grocery stores called firecracker pops but the excitment seems to shrink with the product. Nathan
  15. Having just discovered eGullet and in the middle of a bit of experimenting with thai cooking, I had to jump on to this lahb thread. I made my inaugral larb with ground turkey. (I was hoping my butcher would have ground lamb but was unlucky. I don't know how lamb would work in the larb but saying lamb larb out loud is pretty great!) I sauteed the turkey with a bit of peanut oil and added a bit of thai roasted chile in oil for a bit of background heat. I then dressed with fish sauce/lime/sugar, added shallot, ground (coffe grinder) toasted thai jasmine rice, mint, and a large quantity of dried thai chiles. I toasted the chiles briefly and chopped them by hand into chile flakes. I served my larb over the leafy ends of a napa cabbage. It was quite tasty and had a fair amount of heat. My dressing leaned towards lime over fish sauce which seems to be the flavor I see most often in restaurants. I do have a question for you larb fanatics that does not seem to have been discussed so far in this thread- What is the proper larb serving tmpature??? Based on some of the postings here it sounds like some people are serving their larb as a hot salad? I have always seen this served at room temp and was curious to know if I just missed people cooling the dish or if there are hotter variations. I generally find room temperature to be cold for food so based on the fact that thailand looked to be about 20 degrees warmer than my dining room, I gently rewarmed my salad to take the chill off. Nathan
  16. Thank You. I just found eGullet and have been enjoying digging through the archives. I am currently on an extended layover in Santa Cruz. I grew up in SC and have a lot of family in the area so I dine here fairly frequently. I can claim to be an El Paisano customer since around 1976 or 7 and was glad to pass on an old family favorite. They did go though a bit of a dark period where the tamales went downhill a few years ago. I never asked but I suspect they tried to pull lard out of the masa. They have since seen the error of that decision (or I have become accustomed to tamales-lite!).
  17. A few Santa Cruz ideas for you: Unless dad is nostalgic for a corndog at the boardwalk I would recommend crossing Beach Street at the carousel to El Paisano Tamales for lunch. It is a classic little order at the counter place (it does have seating) with fine tamales, chile verde burritos, and the usual range of plates. For Italian my favorite is Bella Napoli on Water Street. Good, basic, well executed Italian food (regional, not Italian American) in a very small restaurant. Definitely more locals than tourists. Also good is Avanti on Mission Street though the food is less authentic and seems to lean a bit towards France. Both places are ~ $12-$16 for mains. There is a new Mexican on the wharf (right next to the Boardwalk) that was mediocre and had poor service but a fine view. Downtown has El Palomar which is an OK basic Mexican rest. It has a nice room but gets to be a bit crowded, particularly now in the summer season. They also don't take reservations and the wait can get to 1 hour + on weekends. Hope this helps.
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