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bavila

Report: What Makes a Perfect Crab Cake?

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What's so great a great about crab cakes? And how do you make them even

greater?

In response to the gauntlet thrown down in this [link] topic, Busboy, aka Charles Sweeney, and I are hosting the great crab cake cookout at the Busboy residence in DC's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood on the afternoon of August 26, at 3 PM. Everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is convinced that they and they alone have the perfect crab cake recipe, we aim to compare and contrast the infinite variations of this summer delicacy to discover the perfect recipe and technique - or at least to argue about it over beer and soda on a (we hope) lovely summer Sunday.

This event is BYOC and BYOB: bring your own crab for final assembly in the somewhat cramped Busboy kitchen, and bring your own fa vorite crab-oriented beverage. We'll supply soft drinks, corn and tomatoes. And non-crab-cookers -- everyone, actually -- are invited to bring a side dish of their choice.

Kids are invited and parents interested in coming into town for the day should note that the house is a quick walk from the National Zoo.

We're looking forward to a relaxed, fun and illuminating afternoon where you can show your stuff or just relax on the last weekend before Labor Day. Everyone is invited, including friends, spouses and otherwise, but space limitations mean that we'll have to cap the event at 20 people, first come, first served.

This is also an eGullet fundraiser, so we will be asking a contribution of $10 per person.

For further details, please PM Charles or myself.

Yours in crabbiness,

Bridget

LEGAL STUFF:

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN ORGANIZED THROUGH EG FORUMS BY MEMBERS BUT IS NOT SPONSORED BY THE EGULLET SOCIETY FOR CULINARY ARTS AND LETTERS OR EG FORUMS. YOUR PARTICIPATION IN ANY EVENT OR ACTIVITY ARRANGED ON OR DISCUSSED IN EG FORUMS IS AT YOUR SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE RISK. BY USING AND PARTICIPATING IN THE FORUMS YOU AGREE AND UNDERSTAND (1) THAT IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR PARTICIPATION IN ANY EVENT OR ACTIVITY, YOU MAY BE EXPOSED TO A VARIETY OF HAZARDS AND RISKS ARISING FROM THOSE ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS; (2) TO THE FULLEST EXTENT ALLOWED BY LAW, YOU AGREE TO WAIVE, DISCHARGE CLAIMS, RELEASE, INDEMNIFY AND HOLD HARMLESS THE SOCIETY, ITS AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, AGENTS, AND OTHER PARTNERS AND EMPLOYEES, FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY ON ACCOUNT OF, OR IN ANY WAY RESULTING FROM INJURIES AND DAMAGES IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH ANY SUCH EVENTS OR ACTIVITIES. YOU AGREE AND UNDERSTAND THAT THESE TERMS WILL BE BINDING UPON YOU AND YO UR HEIRS, EXECUTORS, AGENTS, ADMINISTRATORS AND ASSIGNS, AS WELL AS ANY GUESTS AND MINORS ACCOMPANYING YOU AT THE EVENTS.

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In addition to the crab-tasting, a local restaurant has re-sparked my interest in beer (drowned by the 26 million Budweisers I drank between 18 and 25) and so I'm hoping that someone with a little more background in suds will drop by with a selection to mix and match.

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Still plenty of room left!

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Still plenty of room left!

Busboy: Good luck with the crab cake cook off. My wife turned deathly allergic to shellfish when she entered her 30s, so crab cakes don't make it to the table much in my house! Anyway, I had pretty good success with a crab cake recipe from Wine Spectator (you could probably find it in the archives on their web site). In short, the key was to use as much pure lump crab meat as possible, little to no filler, and handle very gently (I recall they were roasted in the oven to avoid death by spatula). They were finshed with a beurre blanc, if I recall correctly.

One thing that will be interesting to see is the prevelance of Old Bay in the various recipes people bring. I like the taste of it actually, but a little goes a long way.

Don't know what beers to recommend. I can say, however, that when it comes to wine, viognier is a KILLER with crab meat.

Best,

- VW

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Still plenty of room left!

Busboy: Good luck with the crab cake cook off. My wife turned deathly allergic to shellfish when she entered her 30s, so crab cakes don't make it to the table much in my house! Anyway, I had pretty good success with a crab cake recipe from Wine Spectator (you could probably find it in the archives on their web site). In short, the key was to use as much pure lump crab meat as possible, little to no filler, and handle very gently (I recall they were roasted in the oven to avoid death by spatula). They were finshed with a beurre blanc, if I recall correctly.

One thing that will be interesting to see is the prevelance of Old Bay in the various recipes people bring. I like the taste of it actually, but a little goes a long way.

Don't know what beers to recommend. I can say, however, that when it comes to wine, viognier is a KILLER with crab meat.

Best,

- VW

We finish our patented "yuppie crab cakes" with a buerre blanc; I'm thinking a viogner would indeed be a perfect match -- preferably a Virginia producer, to keep the whole thing local.

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What's so great a great about crab cakes? And how do you make them even

greater?

In response to the gauntlet thrown down in this [link] topic, Busboy, aka Charles Sweeney, and I are hosting the great crab cake cookout at the Busboy residence in DC's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood on the afternoon of August 26, at 3 PM. Everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is convinced that they and they alone have the perfect crab cake recipe, we aim to compare and contrast the infinite variations of this summer delicacy to discover the perfect recipe and technique - or at least to argue about it over beer and soda on a (we hope) lovely summer Sunday.

This event is BYOC and BYOB: bring your own crab for final assembly in the somewhat cramped Busboy kitchen, and bring your own fa vorite crab-oriented beverage. We'll supply soft drinks, corn and tomatoes.  And non-crab-cookers -- everyone, actually -- are invited to bring a side dish of their choice.

Kids are invited and parents interested in coming into town for the day should note that the house is a quick walk from the National Zoo.

We're looking forward to a relaxed, fun and illuminating afternoon where you can show your stuff or just relax on the last weekend before Labor Day. Everyone is invited, including friends, spouses and otherwise, but space limitations mean that we'll have to cap the event at 20 people, first come, first served. 

This is also an eGullet fundraiser, so we will be asking a contribution of $10 per person.

For further details, please PM Charles or myself.

Yours in crabbiness,

Bridget

LEGAL STUFF:

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN ORGANIZED THROUGH EG FORUMS BY MEMBERS BUT IS NOT SPONSORED BY THE EGULLET SOCIETY FOR CULINARY ARTS AND LETTERS OR EG FORUMS. YOUR PARTICIPATION IN ANY EVENT OR ACTIVITY ARRANGED ON OR DISCUSSED IN EG FORUMS IS AT YOUR SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE RISK. BY USING AND PARTICIPATING IN THE FORUMS YOU AGREE AND UNDERSTAND (1) THAT IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR PARTICIPATION IN ANY EVENT OR ACTIVITY, YOU MAY BE EXPOSED TO A VARIETY OF HAZARDS AND RISKS ARISING FROM THOSE ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS; (2) TO THE FULLEST EXTENT ALLOWED BY LAW, YOU AGREE TO WAIVE, DISCHARGE CLAIMS, RELEASE, INDEMNIFY AND HOLD HARMLESS THE SOCIETY, ITS AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, AGENTS, AND OTHER PARTNERS AND EMPLOYEES, FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY ON ACCOUNT OF, OR IN ANY WAY RESULTING FROM INJURIES AND DAMAGES IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH ANY SUCH EVENTS OR ACTIVITIES. YOU AGREE AND UNDERSTAND THAT THESE TERMS WILL BE BINDING UPON YOU AND YO UR HEIRS, EXECUTORS, AGENTS, ADMINISTRATORS AND ASSIGNS, AS WELL AS ANY GUESTS AND MINORS ACCOMPANYING YOU AT THE EVENTS.

This sounds like so much fun! I love crab cakes!

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Just thought I'd point out that the Food Network's Throwdown With Bobby Flay is showing its crab cake showdown tonight at 10:00. He's throwing down with a couple of guys from Maine (what do they know about crab cakes anyway?).

This looks like it will be a great time! Unfortunately, Mrs. mhberk and I are taking Roberto Donna's Risotto class the day before in Virginia and that's about all the driving a pregnant Mrs. mhberk can handle from Columbia in a weekend. I'd be interested in future events though.

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Just thought I'd point out that the Food Network's Throwdown With Bobby Flay is showing its crab cake showdown tonight at 10:00.  He's throwing down with a couple of guys from Maine (what do they know about crab cakes anyway?).

This looks like it will be a great time!  Unfortunately, Mrs. mhberk and I are taking Roberto Donna's Risotto class the day before in Virginia and that's about all the driving a pregnant Mrs. mhberk can handle from Columbia in a weekend. I'd be interested in future events though.

We look forward to having you at one or more! We are baby tolerant. And I come with a built-in babysitter.

For anyone else out there, space is available and -- even if you're not coming -- any commentary on creative side dishes is welcome.

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Unfortunately, I'm out of town this weekend and can't make the crab cake fest. With respect to creative side dishes, I thought I'd share one of my recent favorites with crab cakes (or barbecue or anything else).

First, get some hominy. I like to use dried hominy from the Amish market in Annapolis. Use 4 parts water to one part dried hominy, add a good dose of salt and simmer covered for about 3 - 4 hours until the hominy swells up and is tender. Be careful about bringing the heat up slowly and use a big pan. if you crank it up right away you can get a nasty starchy boil over.

If you use canned hominy, rinse it thoroughly in a colander to remove excess saltiness and "canny" taste.

Heat some vegetable oil and butter in a large non stick skillet. Saute the hominy thoroughly with diced onions and diced chile peppers. I use mostly mild ones like pablanos and anaheims, you can add hotter ones to taste. Don't stir too much as you're trying to get some nice browning on the hominy. Don't do more hominy in one batch than will cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. A little chili powder and cumin is a nice addition, but not too much.

Serve hot, warm, or room temp.

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Just thought I'd point out that the Food Network's Throwdown With Bobby Flay is showing its crab cake showdown tonight at 10:00.  He's throwing down with a couple of guys from Maine (what do they know about crab cakes anyway?).

This looks like it will be a great time!  Unfortunately, Mrs. mhberk and I are taking Roberto Donna's Risotto class the day before in Virginia and that's about all the driving a pregnant Mrs. mhberk can handle from Columbia in a weekend. I'd be interested in future events though.

We look forward to having you at one or more! We are baby tolerant. And I come with a built-in babysitter.

For anyone else out there, space is available and -- even if you're not coming -- any commentary on creative side dishes is welcome.

I might have to take you up on that! Any chance of a future risotto get together?

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I might have to take you up on that!  Any chance of a future risotto get together?

Sounds great! I'd be willing to host that one.

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As usual, I got too caught up in the cooking and entertaining to take a decent quantity of pictures or accurate notes, but I think this celebration of the Chesapeake Bay's signature savory was a smashing success.

By my count we had six variations on the theme, none of which -- surprisingly -- involved even the merest whiff of Old Bay. HJShorter made Thai-style cakes with a piquant peanut sauce and some noodle-y side thingies; Co-host and co-conspirator Bridget Avila (bavila) brought husband Richard, two delightful children and a slew of "classic" cakes topped with a red pepper alioli; C. Sapidus (aka Bruce), Mrs. Sapidus, (aka Carol) and their teenagers brought crabcakes that got eaten before I got to try them, so I don't know what they were, and a stunning salad that involved nuts; and I made "French" crab cakes with a buerre blanc and "Salvadoran" crab cakes with a mango salsa. Mrs. Busboy made a peach crisp and I made some honey-vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Various other folks showed up, contributing wit and wine, including Barbara and Craig and an excellent Riesling; my buddy Matt, whom we're trying to get signed up and who contributed a very swell gazpacho; renowned agriculturalist Mark Toigo, his trusty sidekick Vas and Marnie, Mrs. Vas who gave us all the corn and peaches we could eat.

As usual with any gathering with which I am associated, things got a little too anarchic to do a serious study of, for example, what beverage best accompanies which crab cake, and I still don't know if Bridget found out "what's so great about crab cakes," but I thought the afternoon answered that question with a fairly persuasive "everything." Matter of fact, with a little respect for the product and light hand on the seasoning, it seems to a pretty perfect little food item. Heathers were baked (?), Bruce's were broiled, Bavila's were sauteed in butter and mine fried in oil,. We had big ones, little ones, spicy ones and mild ones and each was delish in their own way. I think Bruce made a fairly compelling case that even yuppie crab cakes go better with beer, even though I'm more of a wine guy, myself, and thought the Albarino showed quite well. (I thought the pinks, which we had in profusion, didn't go as well, but I drank them anyway).

The truest testimony to the quality of the food is the presence or absence of leftovers, of which there weren't many. I'm a little hurt that the only crab cakes left were mine. I'd like to think that that was because they came out last, not because my culinary genius was less than others'. At any rate, I consoled myself by eating the penultimate cake for breakfast in between and English Muffin, washed back with an unpronounceable white wine from the Basque region (OK, kidding about the wine). In fact, after having feasted gluttonously on crab cakes for four hours yesterday, I woke up this morning aching for more.

******

Pretty much everybody deserves thanks for making a great event, though the C. Sapidus's get an extra shout-out for driving in from Frederick and the Avila's deserve and extra, extra shout-out for coming in from Annapolis and making a particularly generous contribution to the Society.

And, indeed, while no-one's going to go to culinary school on what we raised, the generous support of all who attended (even Toigo and Vas, who were told that as farmer-rock-stars they didn't have to pay the cover charge) will allow us to send a modest contribution to eGullet World Headquarters, as soon as I track down a finally check from an office-mate who promised to contribute despite missing the event himself.

Let's do this again.

I'm going to post some recipes below and hope that others who brought food will do the same -- especially Bruce, since I didn't get to taste his.

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*kicking myself in the butt* Gawd, that sounds good! I'm not going to miss the next one. Great job, Busboy.

Any chance for recipe postage?

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Thanks, Charles for hosting a swell event. My favorite cakes were Bruce's, so you missed out. And the homemade tartar sauce was delish.

Small correction: my hors d'oeuvre sized cakes were sauteed in peanut oil, not baked.

"Thai" Crab Cakes (these taste like gussied-up Tod Mun):

1/2 a 3.5 ounce package of rice crackers, ground into crumbs

1 lb. jumbo lump crab

3 egg whites, beaten

2-3 hot red chilis, minced

2 shallots, minced

1/4 c. cilantro, minced

4 kaffir lime leaves, minced

2 T. fish sauce

2 T. lime juice

a little mayo to bind

Gently combine. Cook a small piece, then adjust seasoning if necessary. Sautee in peanut oil until golden on both sides. Makes about 2 dozen two-bite crabcakes.

Cilantro-Peanut Sauce:

1/4 c. rice wine vinegar

2 T. granulated sugar

3 T palm sugar

2-3 T. fish sauce

1/2 t. crushed red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 c. finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts (unsalted)

1/2 c. cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 c. mint, finely chopped

Taste for seasoning, and add up to 1/4 t. salt if necessary.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

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Those peaked my interest the most. Thanks so much for posting the recipe Heather. I'll let you know how they turn out!


Edited by monavano (log)

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Bridget's crab-cake recipe and the recipe for "Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Aioli" is here.

I actually took notes while whipping up mine, but they got lost in the clean-up. I knew doing dishes was a bad thing! These should be pretty accurate, though.

"French" Crab Cakes

1 lb crab meat.

1 egg

6 tbsp heavy cream

loose 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

1 tbsp garlic

3 tbsp (or more) shallots

1/4 tsp salt or to taste

panko or bread crumbs or smashed Ritz Crackers

Reduce cream by half in small saucepan over medium heat, beat the egg and add egg and cream to the crab with everything else save the panko and oil and mix by hand, gently but thoroughly.

Form the crab cakes to whatever size and design you find aesthetically appealing. Coat with panko.

Pour enough oil into a skillet to reach about half-way up the crab cakes' sides. Heat on high until just smoking.

The crab cakes are very fragile at this point and must be handled with care or they will break into bits. Using a spatula, gently set them in the hot oil, turn the oil down to medium. Flip once the bottom gets brown and they are firm enough to handle.

Serve with a buerre blanc. If you're feeling sassy, make a lime buerre blanc by using lime juice instead of vinegar. Or throw in a little wasabi. Heck of a sauce, actually, that buerre blanc.

Note: if one of the crab cakes collapses like an Italian governing coalition, let the pieces fry until crisp, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and eat them yourself without telling anyone. The are delish.

"Salvadoran" Crab Cakes

1 lb crab meat.

1 egg

2 tbsp Crema Centroamericano (check the dairy section of your local bodega)

1 tbsp garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

dash or three hot sauce

1/4 tsp salt or to taste

Smashed Ritz crackers

oil

Mix the cumin and coriander together and roast in a dry saucepan until the kitchen starts to smell really good, and there's just a whiff of visible smoke. Beat the egg. Mix everything but the Ritz Crackers in with the crab, gently but thoroughly. (You may want to hold back a little on the spicing and taste the concoction first, crab being easily overwhelmed).

Form the crab cakes to whatever size and design you find aesthetically appealing. Coat with Ritz.

Pour enough oil into a skillet to reach about half-way up the crab cakes' sides. Heat on high until just smoking.

The crab cakes are very fragile at this point and must be handled with care or they will break into bits. Using a spatula, gently set them in the hot oil, turn the oil down to medium. Flip once the bottom gets brown and they are firm enough to handle.

Serve with mango salsa. There are a lot of recipes around, but for going up against a relatively spicy crab cake I like simple stuff: Chopped very ripe mango, finely diced red onion, lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro, a couple of pinches of sugar and a dash of salt, all tossed together with reckless abandon.

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I only tried FIVE of the kinds of crab cakes--didn't realize there were SIX. That Busboy's were the only ones left had to do with the fact that they were last. I personally voted for his "French" ones, followed closely by Heather's "Asian" version.

Carol's salad, however, was a revelation and I would particularly like her recipe.

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Bridget's crab-cake recipe and the recipe for "Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Aioli" is here;

I would note that I used a sweet and hot mustard rather than dijon (I was out -- how do I run out of dijon mustard?), but I think the substitution was swell.

And Charles, if I hadn't been in round-the-children-up mode, I would have scarfed down some of your cakes. Didn't quite make it to them. Were you kidding about the wine being Basque? I'll only drink Californian wines for breakfast, personally. :wink:

Thanks to our gracious hosts, the Sweeneys, and to Charles for a top-notch report.

As for future events, I'd be happy to host a gumbo/Louisiana cuisine event, Maybe a crawfish boil next May or June...

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I only tried FIVE of the kinds of crab cakes--didn't realize there were SIX.  That Busboy's were the only ones left had to do with the fact that they were last.  I personally voted for his "French" ones, followed closely by Heather's "Asian" version.

Carol's salad, however, was a revelation and I would particularly like her recipe.

And you might slide us a recipe of that excellent cheese torte (?) you brought. I apologize for not mentioning it in the original report; it was excellent and I have carefully preserved the leftovers for my own consumption.

Were you kidding about the wine being Basque? I'll only drink Californian wines for breakfast, personally.

There was some Basque wine around, but I don't think we got into it until after the crab cakes were done. Too bad, I bought it thinking that it would go well with some of the bolder efforts.

You guys, by the way, are lightweights. I think we have enough wine and beer left over for another party tonight.

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Lightweights?

I thought the rose and the cremant de Bourgogne were good choices for my spicy cakes.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

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Note: if one of the crab cakes collapses like an Italian governing coalition, let the pieces fry until crisp, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and eat them yourself without telling anyone.
I nabbed one of these while Charles was taking the others out to the dining room. My God.

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First of all, thanks to the gracious hosts, efficient organizers, and delightful guests. We had a wonderful time. Charles, I enjoyed both of your crab cakes and sauces even though they were competing with your ice cream and Mrs. Busboy’s delicious peach crisp. The mango sauce was particularly swell, so thanks for posting the recipe.

I have never eaten so many delicious and varied crab cakes before, so picking a favorite would be like asking whether I prefer to breathe in or breathe out. By my usual criteria, bavila’s crab cakes scored highly because they had the biggest hunks of crab (and sauteing in butter didn’t hurt, either). Heather’s cilantro-peanut sauce deserves special mention – I could eat that every day of the week (and since she posted the recipe, probably will :rolleyes: ).

I will try to get Mrs. C to codify her never-the-same-way-twice salad, perhaps this evening. I am a relative newbie at making crab cakes, so both of my versions were straight out of John Shields’ Chesapeake Bay Cooking (click for web links):

Gertie's Crab Cakes (clicky) (which did have a hint of Penzey’s Old Bay clone, plus a little smoked paprika). These held together nicely despite very little filler, causing a shift of allegiance from my previous method . . .

. . . . Faidley's World-Famous Crab Cakes (clicky). These have a bit more filler than Gertie’s, but I wanted to be sure that at least one batch of crab cakes did not fall apart.

For the tartar sauce (recipe in Faidley’s link), I made my first-ever batch of homemade mayonnaise, with The Way to Cook guiding me through the process uneventfully. I did tart up the tartar sauce a bit, adding chopped cornichons, capers, and chives.

The chile-tamarind sauce started from a recipe in Victor Sodsook's True Thai, but I have fiddled with it enough to post here:

2-3 Tablespoons oil

1 head (not clove – head) garlic, peeled and finely chopped or mashed in a mortar

2-3 Tablespoons chile-tamarind paste (or more if you are feeling reckless)

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

6 scallions, cut into short sections

2 Tablespoons palm sugar

¼ cup chicken stock, preferably Asian-style

1-2 Tablespoons fish sauce

cilantro and/or Thai basil to taste

Heat a wok to medium-high, swirl in the oil, and stir-fry the garlic until fragrant. Add the chile-tamarind paste and stir-fry briefly (um, make sure you have a good hood fan). Add the chicken stock and palm sugar and stir-fry until the sugar dissolves. Add the bell peppers and scallions and stir-fry briefly. Add the fish sauce, bring to a boil, and turn off the heat when the texture and soupiness are to your liking. Let the sauce cool a bit, then adjust the sweet-salty balance with sugar and/or fish sauce. Garnish with cilantro and/or Thai basil.

Yes, do let's do this again.

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      OK, he didn't dress like that all the time - he cuts a decent figure in chefs' whites as well - but this is what eGullet members can look like when they put their minds to it.
       
      We'd neglected to warn James until the day before of the gluten-free needs of one of the party, but he came through magnificently.  Coronation Chicken and radish/poppy seed/cream cheese sandwiches, feijoa/orange tea cakes, English Royalty currant scones with clotted cream and more of James's jam, along with rosewater/pistachio meringues.  All except the tea cakes were gluten-free, and everything was delicious.  I haven't experienced much gluten-free food, but if it's all like this (I believe it isn't!) I think I could cope.  This was accompanied by our choice from an extensive tea list.  The Jameses have lived in China and their knowledge of teas is vast - they can even do a full tea ceremony at the lodge if you wish.
       
      A very nice touch at afternoon tea was a discreet printed menu so we knew what we were having.  This was also offered later at dinner, to which we now come.
       
      Having dressed appropriately (again - we're getting quite good at it), Mrs Hudson (the younger) and myself descended to the drawing room.  James G had unfortunately been forced to take to his bed after our afternoon tea (we wore him out?), but his young sous-chef Ashley and James B between them gave us a memorable evening.  We began with cocktails and canapés.  For the former we introduced James to the Tolkien.  He's not big on mixed drinks, but allowed that this one was acceptable.  Ashley presented this offering:
       

       
      Chorizo, mozzarella and cherry tomato with a balsamic reduction, and crostini with stracchino and saltwater pearls.  The chorizo and both cheeses were - again - made at Pen-y-bryn.
       
      After a suitable interval we repaired to the dining room:
       

       
      James offered a short but thoughtful wine list, and we went with this:
       

       
      When one is in Otago, one must drink Otago, don't you think?  It was a good choice; warm and fruity and a good match for what followed.
       
      First, cocoa-nib rubbed North Otago venison carpaccio, served with confit cherry tomatoes, sumac-sesame-pinenut soil and balsamic caviar:
       

       
      This was a beautiful dish in every way.  Although our first meeting on eG was in the chamber sealer topic, I hadn't been aware quite how modernist James's cooking was (he told me later he likes to include modernist elements, but may dial it back depending on his audience.  He didn't have to hold back with us).  Ashley was able to chat happily about maltodextrin and spherification - I flatter myself she enjoyed having people there who knew what she was talking about!  But as the eG modernist community knows, it's not all about appearance; the food has to taste good.  And this certainly did.  If you're wondering, the white thing is a coconut sphere.
       
      Then, after a lovely mixed fruit sorbet with triple sec, the main course.  Sous vide confit Canterbury duck leg with crumbed quenelle of pommes sarladais, sorrel gel, baby bok choy and haricots verts, and port wine sauce.  And look at the plate:
       

       
      This was another lovely dish.  The duck was just as tender as you'd hope, with just the lightest crisping of the skin.  The potato quenelle was possibly the best of its type I've had, and the dots of sorrel gel provided a nice bitter note.
       
      We had to finish eventually and it was in fine style, with passionfruit-lemon tart with crème Chantilly and vanilla-poached tamarillos (the photo was taken before the tamarillos went on):
          Again, delicious.  A shortcake-style base with delicious thick cream, complemented beautifully by the berry (I think) sauce and tamarillos.   After this it only remained to return to beside the fire in the drawing room to join some new friends we'd made on this trip.  A very lovely evening.   I can thoroughly recommend Pen-y-bryn for a luxury stay if you get to this part of the world.  I have only one criticism - it's completely ruined me for staying anywhere else.  Thanks, guys.  We'll be back.
    • By Kerry Beal
      And so it begins...
       
      I arrived in Las Vegas at 10:30 or so this morning, picked up my rental car and hastened over the the Tuscany Suites to meet up with Chocolot.  After a brief cruise through all the loot that she had accumulated for the workshop we headed out to do a few errands.  We checked in with Melissa and Jean Marie to check that all was well for later in the week and to enjoy a little look around the facility.  I also had to deliver several bottles of wonderful looking paté that Alleguede had made for Jean Marie (I kept one bottle here for snacking purposes this week).  There was serious drooling going on over all the equipment they have available for us to play with.
       
      What was to be a quick stop at Chef Rubber took a little longer than expected - there is a lot to look at there!  And to buy!
       
      We investigated a couple of thrift stores - notably the Habitat for Humanity Reuse to grab a couple of items that will show their usefulness later this week.
       
      And for dinner we hit Lotus of Siam.  We know that we are going back there this week - but it is a place I've wanted to check out since FG wrote about it a few years ago.  And you can never eat too much Thai can you?
       

       
      Jasmine tea for me.  
       

       
      Chicken larb.
       

       

       
      Khao soi - noodles with a red thai sauce.  And the condiments to go with them - some sort of pickled green (perhaps mustard), onion and of course lime.  
       

       
      Pepper garlic shrimp - didn't see a table without this one!
       

       
      And fried rice with veg and egg. 
       
      Right now Ruth is cruising the internet reviews to see what we should order when we return there on Thursday.  
    • By Bu Pun Su
      French food is my favorite cuisine and l’Arpege is my favorite restaurant. Currently, entering the 4th year that I haven’t returned to l’Arpege (Since ’06, I usually make an effort to go there at least once every 2 years). At the very least I had a chance to savor Alain Passard’s cuisine in late ’12 when he became a guest Chef at Beaufort hotel Sentosa – the most memorable part was when Alain personally cooked 2 Brittany lobsters for me. Fortunately, Singapore has a restaurant owned and run by Passard’s apprentice & his former sous chef, Gunther Hubrechsen. Therefore, whenever I crave for (home-style) French cooking that’s light, delicate and delicious, I often come here. Similar to my Les Amis’ experience, I’ve actually been here about 4 times since 2008 but never wrote a (serious) review even once. As a matter of fact, Gunther’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Singapore
      I had dinner at Gunther’s in the same week as my meal at Les Amis. On purpose, I ordered carte-blanche here with similar budget to the Les Amis’ degustation menu. I wondered how these 2 elite gastronomy restaurants (cooking nouvelle cuisine without any molecular element) would fare against each other. A short comparison in a glance,
      Les Amis = 7 courses including one dessert. 2 courses with caviar and 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, lobster and wagyu beef
      Gunther’s = 8 courses with a dessert. 1 dish with caviar and also 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, gambas and wagyu beef
      Anyway, I ate and enjoyed very much the following stuffs at Gunther’s (my top 3 dishes):
      1st: cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar - the restaurant’s most well-known dish and Chef Hubrechsen should be proud of it. It’s the 3rd time I savor this dish; it’s still very delicious – the flavor, the smells, the texture and all other elements were spot on. High degree of consistency...
      5th: carabinero gambas with tomato rice – given how far Spain from Singapore is, the kitchen did a good job in preparing this prawn. I tasted the gambas’ freshness and sweet flavor; it’s well-seasoned too. The Japanese rice cooked with the prawn’s stock and tomato was pleasant except I prefer rice with firmer texture (like in risotto or paella)
      6th: grilled scallop with black truffle – the main highlight of my meal. The Hokkaido scallop was juicy and tender though not as tasty as the one I had at Les Amis. However, it’s well-enhanced by the sublime and sweet caramelized onion below as well as the pungent winter truffle aroma and flavor on top of it. I liked the onion very much here – a good example how Gunther brought out the essence of its ingredient; possibly the closest one (in terms of ‘deliciousness’) to the Passard’s perfect onion gratin with parmesan that looks deceptively simple
      What makes Gunther’s special is that the talented Belgian chef-owner is capable of generating many different kind of ‘unassuming’ dishes and elevating them to higher level using no more than 3 fresh produce on each plate. It seems modest at times, but actually quite sophisticated. Let me describe a few more dishes I had,
      4th: roasted garlic with onion essence – if I had to pick one dish I like the least, it’s probably the one. The roasted garlic had smooth texture and good smell, well-integrated with mascarpone sauce. However, I found the (garlic) portion was too big. After consuming 2/3 of them, I just swallowed the rest (almost no chewing) so that I wouldn’t be too stuffed and/or dilute my palate for the next dishes
      7th: Char grilled wagyu beef in bordelaise sauce – this was the main course served in a nice portion with a right amount of “fat”. Delicate Japanese beef was generally a safe choice; the chef didn’t do too much and just allowed the natural flavor of high quality wagyu to shine. The sauce and the grilled corn were precisely executed. Nothing wow but it’s hard not to like Japanese beef J
      8th: Truffle parfait – dessert. It’s a soft and light vanilla ice cream served with rich chocolate brownie and topped with aromatic smell induced by the Perigord truffle (having slight peppery taste). I hardly eat dessert with truffle in it. This one was sweet and rather delicious
      There were a couple more dishes I had and you can see/read them on the picture link below. For the meal, I drank 2 glasses of wine. The first glass was 2010 Vincent girardin chassagne-Montrachet; it’s rich and creamy with buttery aromas. The second one was 2009 Black quail Pinot noir; it’s medium bodied with dark berries delicate fragrance and dry finish in slight acidity – a quite refined pinot noir that surprisingly went along nicely with my scallop dish (of course, better with the beef). Oh before I forget, this place only offers one type of bread and butter – to be exact warm mini baguette and salted butter served at room temperature – simple but good; I ate 3 baguettes if not mistaken. The meal ended with a petit four consisting of a green tea macaron and canele – both were fine.
      It was a quiet evening, about half of the restaurant’s capacity was filled. Probably most people were still busy to attend reunion dinner with their friends and colleagues. The dining room decoration was minimalist dominated by dark grey color for the walls (some paintings were hung on them) and medium lighting. This way guests would not feel overwhelmed and the food took center stage. The staffs were polite and helpful without being intrusive. Besides the sommelier, one friendly “Indian” maitre d’ and the greeter, most of restaurants’ FOH staffs were relatively new. Chef Hubrechsen, usually visiting the dining room to greet guests, explained that the staffs turnover at Singapore restaurants were still very high; he even did not have any permanent sous chef assisting him in the kitchen. So the good thing is that it’s almost guaranteed Gunther himself would always be in the kitchen daily to ensure food quality.
      I gave my overall meal experience at Gunther’s nearly 94 pts (a good 2 ¼* by Michelin standard) and it meant about the same level as Shinji by Kanesaka Singapore and Eric Frechon’s Le Bristol, seriously. Another lovely meal, and overall it ranked as the most memorable one I’ve ever had here. Well, there was no bad meal experience at Gunther’s. Hope I can return again sometimes next year, even better if not on my own expenses. Lastly, I prefer this place over Les Amis by a small margin. Check here for pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/GuntherSRestaurantSingapore#
    • By Kerry Beal
      Today we started out with a trip to the college to start getting ourselves set up for tomorrow. Then at 10 am we met at ChocolateFX and started our tour. Of course hair nets are obligatory if you are going to go into a food manufacturing facility!

      Wilma and Art had the small pan set up so that we could pan some raisins.

      Here's Pat (psantucc), with beard appropriately netted, applying some chocolate to the raisins.

      Ava (FrogPrincesse's little one) preparing to add more chocolate, Kyle helping and FrogPrincesse awaiting her turn.

      The fancy packing machine.

      Listening with rapt attention to Wilma explaining the making of ganache truffles in the round silicone molds.
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