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eG Foodblog: David Ross - Black Pearls of Gold


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Thank you for the nice comments. I use my George Foreman grill to make very good hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Wow-that gives me an idea for lunch!

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Confession time: I, too, am the owner of a Showtime Rotisserie (it was a gift). It does work very well, I agree, but don't you have a devil of a time cleaning it? A good friend swears that there is no better prime rib than that cooked on a Showtime. (Glad to see you are using regular kitchen twine to truss your bird and not those weird elastic strings that were generously included by Ron Popeil!)

The halibut looks very good. Well, for that matter, all of your food looks great.

Question for you: Do you find that the lobster base is excessively salty? I have hesitated trying this product for fear that it will be overly salty. Would you buy it again? Have you tried any of the other bases made by that same manufacturer?

I'm looking forward to your trip to Vegas.

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Confession time:  I, too, am the owner of a Showtime Rotisserie (it was a gift).  It does work very well, I agree, but don't you have a devil of a time cleaning it?  A good friend swears that there is no better prime rib than that cooked on a Showtime.  (Glad to see you are using regular kitchen twine to truss your bird and not those weird elastic strings that were generously included by Ron Popeil!)

The halibut looks very good.  Well, for that matter, all of your food looks great. 

Question for you:  Do you find that the lobster base is excessively salty?  I have hesitated trying this product for fear that it will be overly salty.  Would you buy it again?  Have you tried any of the other bases made by that same manufacturer?

I'm looking forward to your trip to Vegas.

I don't seem to have much trouble cleaning the Showtime, but after four years of splaterring grease, it is looking a bit tired. The grease is the hardest part to clean off the metal.

Prime rib is very good on the Showtime believe it or not. I figure on 18 minutes per pound. The Prime Rib won't have a crispy outer fat crust like it would if you cooked it in the oven, but it will be incredibly juicy.

I hate those cotton 'rubber bands' that come with the Showtime. Because they are elastic in the center, I found them to burn and almost melt from the heat of the oven as a chicken roasted. I use the basic old-fashioned cotton string for trussing any poultry or tieing up meat.

I am so glad you mentioned the lobster stock base. It is way too salty so I only use a small amount in sauces. I love the concentrated flavor, but not the salt. I'll start searching for other lobster stock bases and let you know if I find one I like. I do use this company's beef and chicken stock bases and they are very good. I don't find them as salty as the lobster base. Let me know if you find a less salty lobster stock base.

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Confession time:  I, too, am the owner of a Showtime Rotisserie (it was a gift).  It does work very well, I agree, but don't you have a devil of a time cleaning it?

I don't seem to have much trouble cleaning the Showtime, but after four years of splaterring grease, it is looking a bit tired. The grease is the hardest part to clean off the metal.

I, too, am an embarrassed Showtime owner. I'm on my second model after #1 died. Foodies may laugh, but rotisserie duck is second only to confit in my mind. It's a very nice way to cook.

Cleaning is a bit of a pain only because of the volume of hand-washing. I line the drip tray with foil so that I (usually) don't need to wash the bottom. The edge of the heat reflector gets greasy, as do the rods. I find soaking and then scrubbing does the trick for the rods and drip tray cover. Dishwashing works to de-grease (as I found on the first model), but fails to get rid of the blackening - and quickly accelerates rusting.

David aka "DCP"

Amateur protein denaturer, Maillard reaction experimenter, & gourmand-at-large

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David, I have hot hands too (much to my chagrin when I try to make bread; I inevitably add too much flour because the dough gets too sticky, and the loaf is... eeeeh). In the winter it's not as much of a problem since I keep the heat low, but in the summer I sometimes soak my (clean!) fingertips in the ice water for the crust to cool them off before I start. Then just work quickly. I think it's so much fun, when the dough feels like crumbly sand.

At least you can get fresh halibut. Here in small-town Michigan my fish selection is nonexistent. I need to learn to fish; at least then I can maybe catch some... bass? trout? Don't really know what's around here. That dinner looked delicious. The only fish I've had lately has been IQF cod which smells fishy even when FROZEN. :wacko:

As for cleaning the grease off the metal: I don't have a Showtime rotisserie, but can you remove the metal parts? If so I find that making a paste of washing soda and water is pretty good for removing grease from things like broiler pans, so maybe that would work.

Jennie

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Confession time:  I, too, am the owner of a Showtime Rotisserie (it was a gift).  It does work very well, I agree, but don't you have a devil of a time cleaning it?

I don't seem to have much trouble cleaning the Showtime, but after four years of splaterring grease, it is looking a bit tired. The grease is the hardest part to clean off the metal.

I, too, am an embarrassed Showtime owner. I'm on my second model after #1 died. Foodies may laugh, but rotisserie duck is second only to confit in my mind. It's a very nice way to cook.

Cleaning is a bit of a pain only because of the volume of hand-washing. I line the drip tray with foil so that I (usually) don't need to wash the bottom. The edge of the heat reflector gets greasy, as do the rods. I find soaking and then scrubbing does the trick for the rods and drip tray cover. Dishwashing works to de-grease (as I found on the first model), but fails to get rid of the blackening - and quickly accelerates rusting.

I know what you mean about the foodie label. I consider myself in that group, but sometimes it's an internal struggle to balance my foodie side with my everyday home cook side. I reconcile the two because I see them as both expanding my knowledge about food and cooking and what other people eat. If it helps-Julia Child once said her favorite snack food was 'Cheetos.' We can sip Krug and sup on Kumamoto oysters-but we also like a mean bowl of Nalley's chili.

I think you fead my mind. Tonight I'm going to do a duck confit so please check back! The poor little duckies have been sitting in a crock of fat for three weeks now. It's not really an early summer dish, but I can't resist bringing them out of cold fat storage. Now that you've mentioned duck confit it fits perfectly with tonight's dinner.

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David, I have hot hands too (much to my chagrin when I try to make bread; I inevitably add too much flour because the dough gets too sticky, and the loaf is... eeeeh).  In the winter it's not as much of a problem since I keep the heat low, but in the summer I sometimes soak my (clean!) fingertips in the ice water for the crust to cool them off before I start.  Then just work quickly.  I think it's so much fun, when the dough feels like crumbly sand.

At least you can get fresh halibut.  Here in small-town Michigan my fish selection is nonexistent.  I need to learn to fish; at least then I can maybe catch some... bass? trout?  Don't really know what's around here.  That dinner looked delicious.  The only fish I've had lately has been IQF cod which smells fishy even when FROZEN.  :wacko:

As for cleaning the grease off the metal: I don't have a Showtime rotisserie, but can you remove the metal parts?  If so I find that making a paste of washing soda and water is pretty good for removing grease from things like broiler pans, so maybe that would work.

My Showtime doesn't really come apart for deep cleaning. But I kind of look at the grease spots and stains as a badge of courage. Maybe it's a guy thing. I'm one of the die-hards that doesn't do a lot of cleaning of the grill on the Weber kettle out back. Somehow I mistakenly think that an ultra clean and shiny Showtime or a slick and shiny grate on my barbecue grill will kill the taste of the food.

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David, what restaurant was your lunch at? i assume it was in Seattle?

It was the Salty's at Redondo Beach. While the view of the water and islands of Puget Sound is beautiful (you know that), sadly the food was not good and the service worse. 25 minutes to get our lunch after ordering.

Yesterday I took another employee to lunch for her birthday and we ate at Anthony's Seafood in the airport. The 'Halibut Fish and Chips' at Anthony's was far better than the lunch the day before at Salty's.

Yes everyone, the Seattle Airport has a good restaurant! Anthony's is a local restaurant company and if you have time while transitting through Sea-Tac airport, (short for Seattle-Tacoma), stop in. They have lots of Northwest seafood selections.

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David, what restaurant was your lunch at? i assume it was in Seattle?

I'm guessing something near the airport?

Yes, it was the Salty's on Redondo Beach just about a 20 minute drive South of the airport. Great view, so-so food and service.

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The second biggest factor that affects the price of our seafood is the weather. If there are big storms and the boats can't get out for a few days we see an immediate spike in the price of halibut. It happens that quickly. Just like the price of gas for your car can go up from one day to the next.

Boy, I can relate to that. Over here in New England a storm can really ruin the party. So again, can a stretch of great weather, thus glutting the market (for select species). No boats go out until the inventory is down and prices rise... just in time for another northeaster.

I've been using More Than Gourmet demi glace products for a couple years, but not the Lobster/Seafood version because I make my own. A 1.5 ounce puck (US$7.50) makes 32oz of stock. One pound makes 2 gallons. See here for Club Sauce order info and see here for NYT reviews.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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David, what restaurant was your lunch at? i assume it was in Seattle?

I'm guessing something near the airport?

Yes, it was the Salty's on Redondo Beach just about a 20 minute drive South of the airport. Great view, so-so food and service.

David, I don't see you much on our PNW forum - you should poke around there a bit. We'll save you from having to eat at places like Salty's. We only send our tourist there :biggrin:

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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Since the huckleberry discussion has been so popular, I thought I'd end it with some huckleberry cooking today.

I keep a gallon bag of huckleberries in the freezer and use them throughout the year, hopefully ending up with a few berries left in July, just in time for the new crop to ripen.

This morning I made a huckleberry coffee cake with the last few cups of berries that I have left. Not to worry though, I'll be buying this year's crop of huckleberries in about 6 or 7 weeks.

Here is a photo of what our wild huckleberries look like. They are red, black and purple in color and are about 1/2 the size of a blueberry.

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Here you see the coffee cake batter spread in a baking dish with the huckleberries scattered on the top. I don't like to stir the huckleberries into the batter because it can turn the batter a pretty unappetizing purple color. I also like the flavor boost you get when you eat a piece of coffee cake with a cluster of huckleberries on top.

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I sprinkled some sliced almonds on top for texture, and then I put a crumb topping on top of the coffee cake. The crumb topping was a mix of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour and butter.

gallery_28661_4765_23780.jpg

Here is a slice of the final huckleberry coffeecake with some grilled apricots.

gallery_28661_4765_32813.jpg

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David, what restaurant was your lunch at? i assume it was in Seattle?

I'm guessing something near the airport?

Yes, it was the Salty's on Redondo Beach just about a 20 minute drive South of the airport. Great view, so-so food and service.

ahhhh.... this continues to prove my theory- the better the view the worse the food! I'm not a fan of Salty's but I've worked with many who were.

glad you had a better lunch today (oops! edited to mean yesterday!)

Edited by little ms foodie (log)
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That huckleberry coffeecake looks delicious! Looking at it made me think of the cranberry upside down cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours (I think that's the title). I've never had a huckleberry, but I wonder how they'd taste instead of cranberries in that cake.

When I was 5 I spent a school term in Nelson, BC, and we sometimes drove down to Spokane. I remember it as being a really small town, but it was so long ago, that I could be wrong. I used to get a kick out of having been to both Spokane and Slocan (I was 5, so forgive me that). I have a cousin who lives in Spokane now (he's a firefighter out there), and now I'm determined to visit him sometime during huckleberry season!

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That huckleberry coffeecake looks delicious!  Looking at it made me think of the cranberry upside down cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking:  From My Home to Yours (I think that's the title).  I've never had a huckleberry, but I wonder how they'd taste instead of cranberries in that cake.

When I was 5 I spent a school term in Nelson, BC, and we sometimes drove down to Spokane.  I remember it as being a really small town, but it was so long ago, that I could be wrong.  I used to get a kick out of having been to both Spokane and Slocan (I was 5, so forgive me that).  I have a cousin who lives in Spokane now (he's a firefighter out there), and now I'm determined to visit him sometime during huckleberry season!

I think that fresh cranberries would be delicious in this coffeecake. I would probably boil them in water and sugar first until the 'popped' meaning they burst open. That way when you baked the coffeecake the cranberries would be soft and not hard like a raw cranberry. The flavor would be much different than a huckleberry, but very tart and wonderful I am sure.

Spokane today is getting close to 350,000 people in the metro area-depending on who you ask. To the east are Post Falls and Couer d'Alene, Idaho which are towns in their own right, but could be considered a part of the Spokane metro area.

We'd love to invite you down to Spokane any time and maybe a trip into the forest to pick some berries.

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What a day to have computer problems! I've been fighting with this bugger for almost two years and the darn thing is only four! Bear with me for the next few days as I struggle with this beast. The responses may be a bit slow. Or, if I get really mad, I'll open the window, shout "I'm mad as hell I'm not going to take it anymore," and chuck this piece of >>>>>out the window. Not to worry if I go that far, the blog shall continue onward!

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OK, computer problems being fixed. THe lavish feast of duck confit I planned tonight will have to wait for tommorrow since I've spent most of the day hacking at this stupid machine. But I've got a couple of surprises to share tonight after dinner.

Since we've been talking about berries-but mainly huckleberries-I thought I would share another story about Northwest berries with you. This is a piece I wrote about 5 years ago when I was just getting my fingers wet at the keyboard. It may read a little rough, so forgive me. At the end of the piece are links to some recipes using the different berries.

Let me know if you have some questions about the berries. I said at the start of the blog that summer wasn't necessarily my favorite season for cooking. Now after day five of the blog and so much discussion about summmer berries, I think I've changed my mind.

The Cane Berries of Summer

by David Ross

Summer is the best time of year for a cook—the time of year when the bounty of Mother Earth is literally at our fingertips each day.

A new surprise turns up almost every week in my local farmer's market. In June, we are blessed with buckets of ruby-red Bing cherries. July delivers crates of "Blue Lake" green beans. In August, we start husking ears of sweet corn and September brings voluptuously juicy peaches. And in late September, the season is crowned with the exalted and elusive wild huckleberry.

One of the stars of any summer table is the many varieties of "cane" berries that grow throughout the season. Most of us don't even realize what a cane berry is. We see pretty little hillocks of berries standing at attention in the produce section of the supermarket and don't consider the history of these beautiful fruits of summer.

All cane berries are part of the rose family of plants. Like roses, cane berries have long stems (canes), which are studded with prickly thorns. The fruits of cane berries have the same sweet fragrance of rose petals.

Some people consider any type of cane berry to be a noxious weed that grows out of control along the sides of a road. This falsehood could be due in part to the fact that many cane berry bushes border the murky waters of sloughs - it's not too appetizing to think of a berry basking in the sun next to a sewer pit. However, cane berries are not snobbish neighbors. Other than finding a place to soak up the hottest rays of sun and a cool drink of water, they can adapt and flourish in almost any surroundings.

Cane berries also seem to take a bad rap because they are so damn hard to pick. I remember picking wild blackberries in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains just east of Mollala, Oregon. We would trudge through a mucky cow pasture to reach a huge outcropping of blackberries. Of course, the best berries were laughing at us from their sun-soaked perch at the top of the bush, nearly 10 feet above our heads. We were totally unprepared for the torture that awaited, outfitted in t-shirts and shorts, our bare skin exposed to the sharp thorns on the canes.

Hours and untold scrapes and pricks later, we had our bounty: a handful of blackberries. But dreaming of the warm, juicy pie that would grace our dinner table that evening made the trauma of the hunt seem unimportant.

In Oregon, each local berry farmer pays an "assessment" or fee, based on the acres of each crop he grows. The money collected from the farmer is paid to the Oregon State Department of Agriculture.

As one of his duties at the Department of Agriculture, my father was the administrator of the "Oregon Cane Berry Commission" for many years. In Oregon, "Commodity Commissions" run the gamut from animals (beef, fryer and sheep commissions), to fruit and vegetables (strawberry and onion commissions), to hay and grasses (wheat, alfalfa and ryegrass commissions). Through these "Commissions" the state promotes and markets Oregon products around the world.

One of the most popular varieties of cane berries is the "raspberry." Raspberries have been known since prehistoric times. The ancients attributed the origins of raspberries to divine intervention from the Gods--the nymph Ida scratched her breast while picking a delicate raspberry for young Zeus and thus raspberries, until that time white, turned red. The blood of love, so to speak.

Raspberries have been cultivated since the Middle Ages, yet commercial farming methods were not perfected until the start of the 20th century.

The "Loganberry" was created in 1881, when James Logan of Santa Cruz, California, inadvertently crossed a red raspberry and a blackberry. Loganberries possess the red color of the raspberry, albeit a more ruby red, and are somewhat larger and more elongated in size than the blackberry. Loganberries have an especially tart yet sweet flavor that is best suited to baked desserts like pies and tarts.

Rudolph Boysen of Napa, California developed the boysenberry—a hybrid of the blackberry, in the early 1920's.

Mr. Boysen collaborated with Walter Knott and together they produced boysenberries on the Knott farm in Buena Park, California. As a means of helping get through the Depression, the Knott's began selling boysenberry jams and jellies from their farmstand. In later years, the farm became the amusement park we know today as "Knott's Berry Farm."

The Marion blackberry, or "marionberry" is a cross between the Chehalem and Olallieberry and grows exclusively in Marion County which lies within the rich farmlands of the Willamette Valley in Western Oregon. Although Walt Whitman tasted berries that would develop into the marionberry, it was not until 1956 that the first commercially grown marionberries were to the American table. The aromatic marionberry has an intense blackberry flavor and is nearly double the size of the blackberry.

Whereas other blackberry varieties are sold simply as "blackberries," the Marionberry is only sold under the Marionberry name. This is "branded" marketing--selling a high-quality product under its given name. Another example would be "Certified Angus Beef."

Today, foreign berries can be found in supermarkets year-round, and at sky-high prices in January. Nevertheless, it's always best to avoid spending your money on interlopers from halfway across the globe and wait until summer when local cane berries are in season and at the peak of flavor.

So the next time you are winding down a country road this summer and happen upon what appears to be a gangly weed, you may want to stop. It just might be a bushel of sweet, juicy berries-and the best way to taste the flavor of the season is to pick the tender, little morsels straight off the cane and savor the moment. Enjoy.

http://www.themediadrome.com/content/recip..._palm_fruit.htm

http://www.themediadrome.com/content/recip...r_ice_cream.htm

http://www.themediadrome.com/content/recip..._lemon_bars.htm

http://www.themediadrome.com/content/recip...rry_cobbler.htm

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Here is a slice of the final huckleberry coffeecake with some grilled apricots. 

gallery_28661_4765_32813.jpg

Lord have mercy - David, that is just stupenous. I am not generally prone to sweets, but your fruit concoctions have me over the moon (says I, who is just finishing off the last of the amazing cherry clafouti, which shall henceforth be known in these parts as David Ross Clafouti).

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Here is a slice of the final huckleberry coffeecake with some grilled apricots. 

gallery_28661_4765_32813.jpg

Lord have mercy - David, that is just stupenous. I am not generally prone to sweets, but your fruit concoctions have me over the moon (says I, who is just finishing off the last of the amazing cherry clafouti, which shall henceforth be known in these parts as David Ross Clafouti).

Ahhhh. Thank you so much. My first named after dish! If I ever open a bistro we'll call it "Clafoutis ala Ross."

I love desserts-and desserts with berries are my favorite. Let's see, how many can, or should, I list?

Cherry Clafouti

Huckleberry Pie

Coconut Cream Pie

Apple Pie

French Apple Pie

Cherry Pie

Apple Crisp

Pear Brown Betty

Peach Cobbler

Peach Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream

Cherry Ice Cream

Lemon Bars

Raspberry Napolean

Boysenberry Kiss (oops, that's a cocktail, but equally good for dessert)

I'll stop with that.

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The first cookbook I showed was the 'New Boston Cooking School Cookbook' by Fannie Farmer, published in the early 20th century.

Another one of my cherished books was written by Andre Soltner at the end of the 20th century in the mid 1990's.

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Chef Soltner had retired from Lutece and was on a book tour. I met him at a book signing he did at Powell's Books for Cooks in Portland, Oregon.

I will never forget how comfortable and relaxed Chef Soltner made everyone feel. For serious foodies, it was like meeting a celebrity but Chef Soltner was not at all pretentious.

I'll never forget when someone asked him about his 'celebrity chef' status. Mind you, this was before the Food Network and 'named' chefs were just starting to gain mass appeal.

Chef Soltner said he really didn't consider himself a chef as much as a 'cook.' He said he was a 'craftsman' just like the carpenter and the other craftsmen he knew in France. When you think about that statement today it really rings tru. I think there are a lot of 'chefs' who aren't 'cooks.' In other words, today we have a group of 'chefs' who look good wearing trendy glasses and spiked hairdos. But can they 'cook?'

Just last week I was watching a new program on PBS that interviews famous American cooks in the kitchens of the French Culinary Institute in New York.

There was 'Cook' Soltner-the same affable, relaxed man that I had met many years before. He told of growing up in France and how his family and their love of food and cooking fueled his own passions for the kitchen. Then he stood up and prepared an omelette for the students in the audience. Butter, eggs, salt and a bit of pepper. He stirred the eggs with a fork and then poured them into the hot butter melting in a copper skillet. He stirred the egg with a fork a few times and then gently nudged the omelette onto a plate. An unadorned white plate.

When the hostess of the program asked him if you could add vegetables to the omelette he just said "yeah sure, if you would like."

Of course the omelette was perfectly cooked-creamy scrambled eggs on the inside and the outer wrapping of egg set but not over-cooked.

Watching Chef Soltner again reminded me how humble yet confident he was. A man who truly loves his 'craft.' Here is his autograph of my cookbook:

gallery_28661_4765_112.jpg

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Another one of my cherished books was written by Andre Soltner at the end of the 20th century in the mid 1990's.

Watching Chef Soltner again reminded me how humble yet confident he was. A man who truly loves his 'craft.'

What a great story ! He sounds like a special man, and his attitude reminds me a lot of Jacques Pepin. Simple, straightfoward, no pretense. Just about the craft and the results. Gotta love it !

ETA: By the way, I have loved the rest of your blog as well, and am very much looking forward to the next couple of days. It's impressive that you cook as you do with your schedule.

Edited by Pierogi (log)

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Another one of my cherished books was written by Andre Soltner at the end of the 20th century in the mid 1990's.

Watching Chef Soltner again reminded me how humble yet confident he was. A man who truly loves his 'craft.'

What a great story ! He sounds like a special man, and his attitude reminds me a lot of Jacques Pepin. Simple, straightfoward, no pretense. Just about the craft and the results. Gotta love it !

ETA: By the way, I have loved the rest of your blog as well, and am very much looking forward to the next couple of days. It's impressive that you cook as you do with your schedule.

THank you so much for the recognition of my blog. I'll be talking about another very humble and gracious French Chef-Guy Savoy. (You probably saw the photo I posted of Chef Savoy inviting me into his restaurant in Las Vegas).

Like Soltner and Pepin, Savoy is gracious and accomodating. You might even call him a simple man if you met him. But these great chefs all seem to share that sense of quiet confidence and the ambition to serve others through their food. The recognition from the customer after a delicious dinner is their number one goal.

I'm off to our small farmer's market to get some rhubarb to make a rhubarb compote to serve with some duck tonight!

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      Hello everyone,
      eGullet was nice enough to invite me to write a food blog chronicling what I've made or eaten out for one week. I'm so excited about it! Thanks guys.
      About me:
      I dream about food, I wake thinking what's for dinner and I'm so excited to share it with you. I'm part of the food world in New York. By that, I just mean that I'm so fortunate enough to be invited to great events where I get to eat great food. I'm also a nerd and a part of the technology world. I produce, edit and sometimes host food related web videos and I'm also a part of the tech world.
      I'm launching a website called Please, Pass the Gravy. www.pleasepassthegravy.com We let you create a menu, invite friends and then collaborate on that menu. Never host another potluck with 8 pasta salads. You could use it now, but we're alpha launch, it works but it's ugly. It's my ugly baby. So, if you use it be kind and message me if you have improvement ideas. I thought it would be ok to write about it here because it is food related.
      I live in Brooklyn with a lovely guy who likes to eat and a small corgi mix dog. I cook pretty much every night and do a nice brunch on the weekend. I am not a crazy dog lady, but I do admit to cooking food for the dog. I have an excuse, beyond doting, he had seizures that have stopped since not feeding him dog food.
      Foods I cook:
      Spicy foods! If you look at my blog I have a simple papaya ketchup with habanero that is pretty darn good.
      I love great cheese. This may be the week for Beer Cheese Soup.
      I try to limit carbs, though I do cheat.
      In any given week C. and I probably eat cauliflower, broccoli and green beans as a side.
      Tonight's dinner will be Vietnamese inspired. We'll see how it goes. I'll post about it as soon as I can.
      Any requests? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.
      -Grace
    • By Duvel
      In these challenging times, a full summer vacation is not an easy task. For the last 1.5 years we have been mostly at home with the clear plan to visit Catalonia (or more precise my wife’s family) latest this summer. And it looked good for a while. Unfortunately, the recent rise in case numbers in Spain have resulted in …
       
      OK, let’s skip this part. Long story short - my wife and me are fully vaccinated, as are >90% of the people we care about in Catalonia. After some discussion (after all, Germans tend to prefer to be on the safe side of things) we simply fueled up the car, got each a test (for the transit through France) and started to drive …
       
      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 
       

       


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …
       

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
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