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Tradition v. Contemporary Italian Cuisine


hathor
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Here's a photo I took at the Starchef's 2nd Annual International Chefs Congress in NYC this past week of Fabio Trabocchi (now of Fiamma in NYC) plating a dish that combines traditional and modern versions on the same plate.

gallery_8158_5171_64469.jpg

...and here is the plated dish:

gallery_8158_5171_5485.jpg

On the bottom of the photo is the classic chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano with prosciutto di Parma, drops of balsamico tradizionale di Modena and Manni olive oil. At the top of the photo is the modern variant of Parmigiano Reggiano Ice Cream with Prosciutto di Parma Tuile. Both approaches were in fact delicious and the dish was enhanced by the fact that both were there. The contrast kept things playful and made it more interesting.

I had the opportunity to interview Chef Trabocchi after his workshop that coincidentally was entitled Italian Cuisine: Tradition and Evolution. Of course with this topic in mind, I took the opportunity to ask him more specific questions about this. I will place a link in this topic after the interview is posted.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Parmesan was a relatively common flavour for Ice cream in 18th-19th century England, I wonder if this is true of Italy also. In which case the "modern" version would actually be drawing on an older tradition?

I don't believe that it was intended as such. Ingredient wise, it was somewhat of a mirror to the basic version, although the ingredients received a fair amount of manipulation. The presentation was decidedly modern.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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No I don't imagine it was the intent.

It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore". No matter how good an individual dish might me, very often it no longer is perceived as being delicious, good, of interest ,whatever, simply because of changing fashions.

Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

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No I don't imagine it was the intent.

It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore". No matter how good an individual dish might me, very often it no longer is perceived as being delicious, good, of interest ,whatever, simply because of changing fashions.

Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

No doubt you are correct, Adam, although I posit that even in the culinary world things often go in cycles. witness the return of cocktails and fat-laden pork amongst other things. I even saw a Baked Alaska on After Hours with Daniel(Boulud) on tv tonight.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore".

I think that's true because chefs and cooks can lose interest in cooking a dish, and when they do it by rote, the energy and excitement that's missing in the cooking is severely lacking in the the diner's mouth.

Jean-Georges has been making many of his "classic" dishes for ten years. (The young garlic soup with frog legs, the turbot with the Chateau Chalon sauce, etc.) But each time they make it, they give it the same energy and excitement that they put into it when it was new, and that comes across in the dining room. I think a lot of things fall out of vogue because kitchens become complacent, and then people think the need a "new" type of cuisine to bring the excitement back. But they don't. They just need a chef dedicated enough to keep the excitement in the dish he's making.

It's what they say of actors who get bored in part and want to change it each night: don't. You may feel bored, but it's the audience who's paying money to be entertained, and you have an artistic obligation to find the way to reproduce the same thing you did six nights ago, and three nights ago with a new energy each night.

I know somebody will say, "but the chef gets bored making the same thing", and I'm saying that whether he is or not, he still has a professional obligation to make it just as well as he did when it was exciting for him, just as the Jean-Georges kitchen does with their classic dishes.

Last year I had a Bolognese sauce at Babbo that one of my party likened to what's in the can of Chef Boyardee meat ravioli, and we all had to agree that that was a very accurate description of that batch of sauce. But I don't think the answer is a molecular Bolognese, or a deconstructed Bolognese. I think the remedy is to make the sauce as if you had just tasted a great rendition of it in Italy for the first time, and were trying to make a batch that captured that same excitement for your patrons.

Now, I'm not saying that chef's shouldn't create new dishes as well.

But to go back to the opening post of the thread,

"I've wrestled for 2 seasons with how to sophisticate the classic combination of melon and prosciutto. I've tried pulverizing dried prosciutto, I've tried melon sorbetto, melon aspic...but nothing comes close to the texture and flavor contrasts of the original dish. For me, this exemplifies what I try to do in the kitchen....respect the original dish, while attempting to seduce the diner with a new rendition that is equally satisfying. I haven't found the answer yet..."

I think that there are many dishes that don't need to be improved upon - they just need to be made with as much energy and respect as if they're being made for the first time, so they'll come out tasting fresh and exciting.

If you want to take ingredients that are now in the market that weren't there twenty or thirty years ago, and find delicious ways to cook them, fine. But I'd still rather have prosciutto and melon to start than prosciutto dust and melon foam in it's place. Side by side I might be able to appreciate, but not instead of.

Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

bravo.gif

I couldn't agree more!

Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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What about the wine?

To me, what can make a dish a "Contemporary Masterpiece" is to have it perfectlycomplement the wine in the glass by its side. Italy is a gold mine for such a concept. Instead of trying to "impress" by making ice cream out of Parmigiano Reggiano, I would focus my efforts on taking a wine from a region; a Verdicchio from Le Marche, a Legrein from Alto Adige, an Aglianico from Campagna, (the list goes on for awhile) and CREATE a new dish that is original, and at the same time, CONTEMPORARY, but still "TRUE TO ITS REGION," using ingredients, and historical influences, as is appropriate. In a restaurant setting, I guess the challenge would be to sell it to Mr & Mrs. Chianti.

I have yet to find any authoratative writing on this subject, but I have heard it said, "if it grows together, it goes together," and I believe that classics exist regionally, not just because, but because it goes well with the wine from the village of origin. Why else would it exist?

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What I would give to sit down with Fabio Tabocchi and listen to what he has to say on this subject.

Docsconz, what forum are you posting the interview in? I want to be sure to read it.

Here's my proscuitto/melone revelation: the tweak should be a flavor bridge, another ingredient, not a 'technique'. I've got some ideas but they need to wait until next season's melons come in.

Markk, interesting points. You are so right that you have to maintain enthusiasm for a dish or it will suffer. When you go on auto-pilot, the ingredients know it and fall asleep on the plate. It's like the evolution of a relationship: enthusiastic infatuation gives way to happy love affair which evolves into comfortable marriage...oh, stop me now! :laugh::laugh:

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What I would give to sit down with Fabio Tabocchi and listen to what he has to say on this subject.

Docsconz, what forum are you posting the interview in? I want to be sure to read it.

I will post a link here when it is posted. Unfortunately, that might be awhile. :wacko::sad:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Doc, I am looking forward to your report, too.

Much earlier in this thread, I mentioned Fabio Trabocchi and linked his menu at Maestro, the restaurant he is leaving when moving to New York. He's definitely relevant to this discussion.

While the menus currently available online don't provide the more comprehensive picture offered by his cookbook, they raise another issue: cooking (versions of) regional dishes outside of their place of origin. Am I correct in believing Italian chefs feel more free to do this when they assume positions in kitchens outside of Italy? (I can think of at least one counter-example.)

Back to the chef's cookbook: I recall a recipe that evokes the chef's regional origins without being "authentic". Trabocchi created a dish that is based on the smell of hay burning; it reminds me somewhat of the kinds of things José Andres is known for. Starchefs.com actually publishes it online here: Smoky Hay Turbot with Potatoes.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore".

I think that's true because chefs and cooks can lose interest in cooking a dish, and when they do it by rote, the energy and excitement that's missing in the cooking is severely lacking in the the diner's mouth.

Jean-Georges has been making many of his "classic" dishes for ten years. (The young garlic soup with frog legs, the turbot with the Chateau Chalon sauce, etc.) But each time they make it, they give it the same energy and excitement that they put into it when it was new, and that comes across in the dining room. I think a lot of things fall out of vogue because kitchens become complacent, and then people think the need a "new" type of cuisine to bring the excitement back. But they don't. They just need a chef dedicated enough to keep the excitement in the dish he's making.

It's what they say of actors who get bored in part and want to change it each night: don't. You may feel bored, but it's the audience who's paying money to be entertained, and you have an artistic obligation to find the way to reproduce the same thing you did six nights ago, and three nights ago with a new energy each night.

I know somebody will say, "but the chef gets bored making the same thing", and I'm saying that whether he is or not, he still has a professional obligation to make it just as well as he did when it was exciting for him, just as the Jean-Georges kitchen does with their classic dishes.

Last year I had a Bolognese sauce at Babbo that one of my party likened to what's in the can of Chef Boyardee meat ravioli, and we all had to agree that that was a very accurate description of that batch of sauce. But I don't think the answer is a molecular Bolognese, or a deconstructed Bolognese. I think the remedy is to make the sauce as if you had just tasted a great rendition of it in Italy for the first time, and were trying to make a batch that captured that same excitement for your patrons.

Now, I'm not saying that chef's shouldn't create new dishes as well.

But to go back to the opening post of the thread,

"I've wrestled for 2 seasons with how to sophisticate the classic combination of melon and prosciutto. I've tried pulverizing dried prosciutto, I've tried melon sorbetto, melon aspic...but nothing comes close to the texture and flavor contrasts of the original dish. For me, this exemplifies what I try to do in the kitchen....respect the original dish, while attempting to seduce the diner with a new rendition that is equally satisfying. I haven't found the answer yet..."

I think that there are many dishes that don't need to be improved upon - they just need to be made with as much energy and respect as if they're being made for the first time, so they'll come out tasting fresh and exciting.

If you want to take ingredients that are now in the market that weren't there twenty or thirty years ago, and find delicious ways to cook them, fine. But I'd still rather have prosciutto and melon to start than prosciutto dust and melon foam in it's place. Side by side I might be able to appreciate, but not instead of.

Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

bravo.gif

I couldn't agree more!

markk- Your brilliant comment about acting got me thinking(always a bad thing :laugh::laugh: ). When I go to a performance of "Richard III", I am not interested in what comes next-I know the story-rather I am interested in seeing this particular troups take on a classic. They can dress their actors in cloths from the 1930's, but I want Shakespear's dialog, nothing is gained( in my opinion) by giving it a "contemporary" twist.Good actors and chefs have enough of a challenge creating great versions of the classics, they don't have to reinvent them.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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It raises the interesting point that while food changes over time, the other dynamic is people. If you look at various restaurant threads on egullet there are lots of comments like "The menu was the same as last time I visited", "The chef is resting on their laurels", "This type of food isn't new anymore".

I think that's true because chefs and cooks can lose interest in cooking a dish, and when they do it by rote, the energy and excitement that's missing in the cooking is severely lacking in the the diner's mouth.

Jean-Georges has been making many of his "classic" dishes for ten years. (The young garlic soup with frog legs, the turbot with the Chateau Chalon sauce, etc.) But each time they make it, they give it the same energy and excitement that they put into it when it was new, and that comes across in the dining room. I think a lot of things fall out of vogue because kitchens become complacent, and then people think the need a "new" type of cuisine to bring the excitement back. But they don't. They just need a chef dedicated enough to keep the excitement in the dish he's making.

It's what they say of actors who get bored in part and want to change it each night: don't. You may feel bored, but it's the audience who's paying money to be entertained, and you have an artistic obligation to find the way to reproduce the same thing you did six nights ago, and three nights ago with a new energy each night.

I know somebody will say, "but the chef gets bored making the same thing", and I'm saying that whether he is or not, he still has a professional obligation to make it just as well as he did when it was exciting for him, just as the Jean-Georges kitchen does with their classic dishes.

Last year I had a Bolognese sauce at Babbo that one of my party likened to what's in the can of Chef Boyardee meat ravioli, and we all had to agree that that was a very accurate description of that batch of sauce. But I don't think the answer is a molecular Bolognese, or a deconstructed Bolognese. I think the remedy is to make the sauce as if you had just tasted a great rendition of it in Italy for the first time, and were trying to make a batch that captured that same excitement for your patrons.

Now, I'm not saying that chef's shouldn't create new dishes as well.

But to go back to the opening post of the thread,

"I've wrestled for 2 seasons with how to sophisticate the classic combination of melon and prosciutto. I've tried pulverizing dried prosciutto, I've tried melon sorbetto, melon aspic...but nothing comes close to the texture and flavor contrasts of the original dish. For me, this exemplifies what I try to do in the kitchen....respect the original dish, while attempting to seduce the diner with a new rendition that is equally satisfying. I haven't found the answer yet..."

I think that there are many dishes that don't need to be improved upon - they just need to be made with as much energy and respect as if they're being made for the first time, so they'll come out tasting fresh and exciting.

If you want to take ingredients that are now in the market that weren't there twenty or thirty years ago, and find delicious ways to cook them, fine. But I'd still rather have prosciutto and melon to start than prosciutto dust and melon foam in it's place. Side by side I might be able to appreciate, but not instead of.

Where I think that restaurant dining lacks maturity is that as yet it is very rare for older versions of a cuisine to come back into fashion. There is no equivalent of collectors of Art Deco or 1950's Swedish furniture.

I'm not sure why this is the case, but in the rush to find the next new thing, I think that it is important to remember this. Some old fashioned tradional dishes work just as well in a modern setting and when discarding tradional dishes it is worth keeping in mind that they may be relevant at a later date.

bravo.gif

I couldn't agree more!

markk- Your brilliant comment about acting got me thinking(always a bad thing :laugh::laugh: ). When I go to a performance of "Richard III", I am not interested in what comes next-I know the story-rather I am interested in seeing this particular troups take on a classic. They can dress their actors in cloths from the 1930's, but I want Shakespear's dialog, nothing is gained( in my opinion) by giving it a "contemporary" twist.Good actors and chefs have enough of a challenge creating great versions of the classics, they don't have to reinvent them.

Well, not to wander off-topic, but it was my own love of opera, and having seen a production of the Rossini opera "Semiramide" (Semiramis), which takes place in ancient Assyria, set on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise (oh, I kid you not), that made me think of that. As in, oh, you know, why don't they just get some singers who can Rossini's music great, and an orchestra that plays it great, and leave it alone.

I'm not opposed to the idea of somebody writing an atonal opera that uses smashing panes of glass and fog horns and is set on Mars, as long as I don't have to go see it. (Or eat prosciutto dust and melon foam as my dinner before it. )

:shock:

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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... they raise another issue: cooking (versions of) regional dishes outside of their place of origin.  Am I correct in believing Italian chefs feel more free to do this when they assume positions in kitchens outside of Italy?  (I can think of at least one counter-example.)

Hi Pontormo,

judging from London, I'd say yes. For example, a few months ago I remember seeing on the dessert list of Via Condotti (chef Pasquale Amico), items ranging from bunet (Piedmont) to baba' (Campania) to Seadas (Sardinia). One does not see this frequently in establishments of similar level in Italy.

m.

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What I would give to sit down with Fabio Tabocchi and listen to what he has to say on this subject.

Docsconz, what forum are you posting the interview in? I want to be sure to read it.

Here's my proscuitto/melone revelation: the tweak should be a flavor bridge, another ingredient,  not a 'technique'. I've got some ideas but they need to wait until next season's melons come in.

Markk, interesting points. You are so right that you have to maintain enthusiasm for a dish or it will suffer. When you go on auto-pilot, the ingredients know it and fall asleep on the plate. It's like the evolution of a relationship: enthusiastic infatuation gives way to happy love affair which evolves into comfortable marriage...oh, stop me now!  :laugh:  :laugh:

To me the flavor bridge in Fabio's dishes comes down to this:

the addition of the ripe, fruity, funky, granular and delicious parmesan (and salty, notwithstanding) - not seen in a classic prosciutto e melone.

Ice cream substitutes for the melon in his "new" presentation - and is made out of parmesan! Cold and melting, just like a ripe melon.

And in the classic preparation, the balsamico and fig substitute for the melon due to their sweetness, and there's the parmesan again. Though fig and prosciutto are also a classic pairing, I don't know if prosciutto and parm are!

But I may be confused :blink: !

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Here's a dish that I had on our recent trip to Bologna, Montone (and Rome), which I'll be posting about in greater detail (soon!)...

gallery_6902_5187_47785.jpg

It was at lunch at Veranda Il Calandrino (of the familiAlajmo group), outside of Padua, and the dish is Filetto alla griglia con aceto balsamico, pesto d’erbe, fagiolini alla pancetta.

To me, it's both traditional AND contemporary.

The grilled beef is to me traditional - though not necessarily the same cut, or to the same level of doneness (rare) - and the balsamico and pesto take it to the next level.

Then the vegetables - perfectly cooked (for the green beans, just past al dente - the way I like them), wrapped in paper thin pancetta - slightly crisped up after wrapping. Not usually the way Italy cooks it's vegetables - to death, as Judith says above - so this is contemporary, no?

And the presentation! Meat and vegetable on the same plate - yikes!

This was so simply delicious, showcasing great ingredients, and bringing a contemporary spin to a traditional meal!

Whether this answers any of Judith's original question is another subject :laugh: !

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a Filetto di Manzo con Aceto Balsamico is a classic preparation. At least, I ate one at Ristorante Fini in Modena in 1974, and I don't believe they were even allowed to do anything innovative by order of the local food police then.

Well, I searched, but I don't, alas, have the photo of that dish. But I do have the first course from that meal, a sampler of three traditional local pastas. I know this isn't relevant to the discussion, but I thought people might like to see a photo of pasta in Modena from 1974:

gallery_11181_3830_75856.jpg

They are the ubiquitous green gnocchi in a cream sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano, agnolotti (don't remember what they're filled with) in an obviously similar sauce, and something that may be lasagne, and which certainly has something like spinach in the filling.

I do remember it as gooooooooood.

(And if there's any crossover from the photos in restaurant thread, at least you know one person who's been photographing what he eats in restaurants since 1974, long before there were bloggers.)

Edited by markk (log)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a  Filetto di Manzo con Aceto Balsamico is a classic preparation.  At least, I ate one at Ristorante Fini in Modena in 1974, and I don't believe they were even allowed to do anything innovative by order of the local food police then.

Now that's pretty cool - and I would imagine Modena would be where you could get that dish back then!

Great pic, markk - are the gnocchi awfully saucy by today's standards?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Great pic, markk - are the gnocchi awfully saucy by today's standards?

Well, isn't that what this whole thread is about?

Replacing sinful, excessive amounts of decadent creamy sauce with freeze-dried, dehydrated, pulverized "Parmigiano Cream Dust" (to go along with a small mound of dough and a small amount of chopped meat, which represent the 'de-constructed tortellono'?)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Then the vegetables - perfectly cooked (for the green beans, just past al dente - the way I like them), wrapped in paper thin pancetta - slightly crisped up after wrapping.  Not usually the way Italy cooks it's vegetables - to death, as Judith says above - so this is contemporary, no?

For me this is more about "Personal taste" then "Tradition v. Contemporary". For me personally the beans are too big and I like them cooked to the point that the still squeak when you eat them, but are definately not al dente. I don't think that this makes my preferences either Tradition or Contemporary just an idiosyncratic choice. I think that the definition of what is Traditional or Contemporary has to be better defined then just "level of cooking in veg.". Having eaten large amounts of raw baby artichokes and broad beans in Italy, where would these fit in to the "Tradition v. Contemporary" model for instance.

What I guess is contemporay is that the beans lack any particular regional identity, in fact they could be on a plate in France, England, NYC or Melbourne. I'm not against delicious, in fact I am quite for it, but if I am eating in Italy then I want to eat something that is Italian and delicious, not something generically delicious. Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?

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Then the vegetables - perfectly cooked (for the green beans, just past al dente - the way I like them), wrapped in paper thin pancetta - slightly crisped up after wrapping.  Not usually the way Italy cooks it's vegetables - to death, as Judith says above - so this is contemporary, no?

For me this is more about "Personal taste" then "Tradition v. Contemporary". For me personally the beans are too big and I like them cooked to the point that the still squeak when you eat them, but are definately not al dente. I don't think that this makes my preferences either Tradition or Contemporary just an idiosyncratic choice. I think that the definition of what is Traditional or Contemporary has to be better defined then just "level of cooking in veg.". Having eaten large amounts of raw baby artichokes and broad beans in Italy, where would these fit in to the "Tradition v. Contemporary" model for instance.

What I guess is contemporay is that the beans lack any particular regional identity, in fact they could be on a plate in France, England, NYC or Melbourne. I'm not against delicious, in fact I am quite for it, but if I am eating in Italy then I want to eat something that is Italian and delicious, not something generically delicious. Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?

I think traditionally, you would have found vegetables either raw and, shall we say, quite well-cooked.

And you're right in stating that traditional vs. contemporary needs more of a definition than "level of cooking in vegetables." I didn't mean to make it sound like I think it is the definition...just that I think it can be included as one of the things that helps to define it.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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What I guess is contemporay is that the beans lack any particular regional identity, in fact they could be on a plate in France, England, NYC or Melbourne. I'm not against delicious, in fact I am quite for it, but if I am eating in Italy then I want to eat something that is Italian and delicious, not something generically delicious. Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?

Funny, but you used exactly the word that has been rolling around in my brain: generic.

When does tradition become generic? And I do not have an answer to that question.

Adam, can you expound a little more (oh, come on....how often do your loved ones ask you to expound a little more?? :laugh: ) on what you meant by "Maybe this is where Italy fails on the fine dining scene, not generic enough?" I think you might be onto something here....

I concur that filetto con aceto balsamico would be considered traditional, and pan-regional enough to be considered generic. But. And it's a big but: this was an excellent filetto, perfectly prepared, so that is what makes it rise above the mundane. Are we being precious in immediately assuming that generic is less tasty?

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Hello- I know I am in the minority here :cool: but, in my opinion, an Italian dish cannot (by definition) be generic.It can be tasty or disgusting, but it will never be generic.In my opinion a generic dish (regardless of quality) is one that shows very little regional influence. A generic dish is more about contemporary trends than local traditions. I have never been to Europe, but I can tell you that if I ever go to Spain,my plan will be to find a really,really, really good paella and not to eat at a temple of molecular gastronomy.

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Ciao Naftal! When I say generic, I mean that you will find the same dish at many, many restaurants. Anyone who has traveled as a tourist, and stayed for 2 weeks in anyone area knows what I mean when I say you feel that you've encountered some sort of government standard issue menu.

In Umbria, for example you will always find pasta with porcini, pasta with truffle sauce, pasta with cream etc.

In Lazio you find arrabiata, cacio e pepe etc.

In Emilio Romagna you find bolognese sauce.

These are very simple, broad, examples, but, you find these dishes on 99% of all the menus in that area, so to me, that makes them more or less generic.

Not generic is a bad way, just generic.

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Well, I missed a day or so, and I'm not really following the thrust of the "generic" thing going on in this thread.

However, I can help clarify it, because I think that you only have to gather the Chinese Takeout menus in your area, to see that they're all the same standard menu; every one has the same basic categories and dishes; every one has Moo Goo Gai Pan, Chicken with Broccoli, Kung-Pao Chicken (with a hot-spicy asterisk) etc. in the "Chicken" category, and pretty much every one even has the same "House Special" dishes, i.e. "Gen Tso's Chicken", "Orange Flavor Beef" etc.

In some cities in Italy, at least in olden times (30+ years ago) (I'll give Rome as an example) these menus were given, with all the standard "tourist-Roman" dishes printed on them and the prices blank, and the various restaurants would fill in the prices for those dishes they offered. So every menu had "prosciutto e melone" as an antipasto, and certainly "Saltimbocca" as a primo piatto, though I can't remember all of them, nor can I find a photo of them. But they actually were in 4 columns, with the dishes translated into the most popular tourist languages. "Prosciutto and Melon" became "ham with melon" in English. And strangely, or rather 'un-appetizingly' to say the least, "Bistecca alla griglia" became, in the German column, "Gekochte Fleisch".

But I'm not sure that "generic" is the right word, or that it's being used correctly in this discussion.

Yes, all the dishes on the standard-issue menu for a city or region certainly catalog the traditional dishes of that cuisine. Whether the restaurant cooks them with care and love and they are vibrant and great, or whether they crank them out by formula with industrial-quality ingredients for the tourists and don't care what they taste like as long as they follow, perfunctorily, the 'recipe' for the dish, is another story.

But as some of us have been saying, the cure for somebody making deadly dull, lifeless, rubbery Saltimbocca alla Romana is to take the highest quality veal, some fragrantly fresh sage, and make the dish as if discovering that combination for the first time.

And as I have said, if a Roman-born and -raised, and -trained chef goes to the market and finds ingredients that, thanks to modern transportation and refrigeration methods, his grandparents never saw or tasted, I don't have a problem if he cooks them in a way that follows the culinary tradition in which he's been raised and steeped, and finds a way to bring out a new dimension in that ingredient. And though I've said it enough times that even I'm tired of hearing it, I will accept this scenario as a natural course of culinary evolution, but I would have a problem with being told that my plate had beads of veal-protein, butter foam, and powdered sage and that I was instructed to take some of each on my spoon.

I realize that for some people this is an exciting dimension (I'm thinking of the Doc), and I don't deny the validity of that for them; I only speak for myself when I rant on like this.

:wacko:

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

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Speaking for myself, I'd rather not eat any dishes that taste as if they were prepared for the first time. I'd prefer to eat the dish as prepared by a line cook who has made it a thousand times and has it down to a science.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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