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Report: 2009 Heartland Gathering in Kansas City


Chris Hennes
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Bay Scallop with Crum's heirloom beets, prairie birthday arugula and coriander-champagne vinaigrette

This is the one combination that didn't work for me, for a couple of reasons.  Even though I enjoyed the bay scallops and the beets individually, I personally couldn't appreciate the flavors together.  The combo was more discordant for me than complementary.  Also, even though the onion element on this plate was relatively small, it was a bit overwhelming.

See I thought this dish was a home run. It was my favorite of the evening. I think this was just one of those risk-taking dishes that people are going to love or hate. But to me it was brilliant.

Sous Vide Peaches with oatmeal streusel cake, cream fraiche, ginger gelee, caramel-peach foam and gingersnap wafer

Here, the cake, the peaches and the wafer were all delicious without being overly sweet but I had trouble picking up the flavor notes in the foam.  Still, I'd count this dish as a success.

I also couldn't really taste the flavors and I thought the cake was dry. This dessert just didn't work for me.

As painful as it is to agree with Fat Guy, I :wub:'d the beet dish - I loved the counter point of sweet (beets, scallops), slightly spicy (arugula, well-rinsed onion) and [searching for words here] semi-astringent (radish - in this case, not as a rule) and the blossoms. In fact, I just did something similar as an after-salad to cleanse our palates from red curry leftovers, which rocked!

Paula, our venue manager/hostess, treated their small staff to curry for lunch today and told me that she probably should have paid us (vs. us renting the space) in light of her enjoyment not only of the food but the people she shared a table with and opportunity to learn from everyone. I think she intends to amend the rental contract to ensure she is an "invited guest" at all future events, but the catered ones won't be nearly as interactive as what she was subjected to Saturday. She looked here for pix from the event and will likely continue to do so, so bring 'em on! Also would appreciate recipes (esp curry, Kerry :wub:)

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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The Bluestem meal was really incredible and I loved every dish, the walu was what blew me away though. Every part of that dish, the fish, the beans, the broth was superb. I often prefer fish to meat but rarely order it when I am the midwest because I have been disappointed too many times. I could go on for days about how much I loved that dish.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I also want to thank Judy and Aaron for organizing this and for their equanimity throughout the weekend. I don't think I could have remained so calm and organized (actually I know I couldn't - given my chicken with head cut off routine the first day of the chocolate conference).

I have just arrived back at 8:10 this morning - my day of call starting at 8am - but I got caught by the swing bridge opening to let a sailboat through. I'm a bit of a bag from a very long day in airports yesterday - one plane cancelled, too late for my connection to Sudbury - the later flight being delayed until almost midnight due to mechanical problems... I stayed in a hotel in Sudbury overnight rather than risk the drive on the dark moose infested roads of northern Ontario. My luggage is still vacationing in Chicago. I long to see my hairbrush again.

A little later today - if call allows I'll download what few pictures I have and post.

Meanwhile - the single batch version of the Thai Red Curry

Thai Red Curry with Lychee and Pineapple

Recipe By : me

Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00

Categories : Main dishes Asian

International

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 can coconut milk

2 tablespoons red curry paste (Mae Ploy brand is ideal)

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 teaspoons palm sugar

1 can lychee - drained

1/4 pineapple - chunked

4 chicken breasts, skinned and cut bite size across the grain

2 kaffir limes leaves - chiffonade

thai basil to garnish

Divide coconut milk, put fat in pan and fry with curry paste until separates and smells good. Add remaining coconut milk and fish sauce and palm sugar to taste. Cook the pineapple pieces a couple of minutes in the microwave. Add sliced chicken to coconut mixture, cook about 10 minutes, then add the pineapple and lychee.

Garnish with thai basil and kaffir lime leaf.

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I also want to thank Judy and Aaron for organizing this and for their equanimity throughout the weekend.  I don't think I could have remained so calm and organized (actually I know I couldn't - given my chicken with head cut off routine the first day of the chocolate conference). 

I have just arrived back at 8:10 this morning - my day of call starting at 8am - but I got caught by the swing bridge opening to let a sailboat through.  I'm a bit of a bag from a very long day in airports yesterday - one plane cancelled, too late for my connection to Sudbury - the later flight being delayed until almost midnight due to mechanical problems...  I stayed in a hotel in Sudbury overnight rather than risk the drive on the dark moose infested roads of northern Ontario.  My luggage is still vacationing in Chicago.  I long to see my hairbrush again. 

A little later today - if call allows I'll download what few pictures I have and post. 

Oh, Kerry! What an ordeal. I hope they don't call you in today.

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Kerry, my friends and co-workers are nipping at me about the bacon chocolate. It's a matter of tempering the chocolate, adding the ingredients, and spreading it onto parchment, right?

Would you also list the ingredients, the relative amounts, and the brands you used? I remember the bacon is Ronnie Suburban Special Reserve :wink: but I didn't catch the brand of smoked salt, and I've slept since you told me the brand of chocolate. I do remember that you mixed and milk and the dark.

Jenny

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Others' pictures of the food are much better than mine.  I'm still undecided as to which I enjoyed more:  the people or the food.

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Tino27 sprinkling salt on foccacia dough

Note: catching the salt in midair is more a function of serendipity than expertise on the part of the photographer.

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Kerry's bacon chocolate probably should be illegal, and just might be one day. 

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When nyokie6 and Lora started posting about having some cheese, etc. during the day, I thought "Oh good.  That'll be nice to nibble on while we're working."  The appetizers alone probably would have feed the entire group for a week, but no one complained.  Incredible, opulent, wonderful.

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See what I mean?

A reporter and photographer with the Kansas City Star were "embedded"  :biggrin:  with us for the weekend, and I do believe we impressed them in several ways.

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When talking to them, I found myself struggling to find words when trying to describe how eGulleters tend to develop a fondness, respect, and attachment to each other, despite the fact most of us have never met.  I tried - and didn't really succeed - to describe what it's like to belong to this group, and how on fortunately rare occasions that we lose a member and find ourselves grieving deeply for someone we've never laid eyes on.  We share each others' joys, failures, and accomplishments, and we get to know each other in ways that people in other online communities often don't.  We learn from each other, challenge each other, and share the misery of various culinary disasters and frustrations.  But I just couldn't find a way to describe how all this really works.  I guess what it boils down to, is that eGullet isn't about food.  It's about people who love food.  We understand that food is more than fuel for the body; it's also nourishment for the soul, and we connect with each other on that level.

I probably should just leave it at that.  :rolleyes:

Jenny

Serendipity nonwithstanding, those are some GREAT pictures, Jenny! Thanks for the views :wub:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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Kerry, my friends and co-workers are nipping at me about the bacon chocolate.  It's a matter of tempering the chocolate, adding the ingredients, and spreading it onto parchment, right?

Would you also list the ingredients, the relative amounts, and the brands you used?  I remember the bacon is Ronnie Suburban Special Reserve  :wink: but I didn't catch the brand of smoked salt, and I've slept since you told me the brand of chocolate.  I do remember that you mixed and milk and the dark.

Jenny

Belcolade chocolate - probably about 5 or 6 parts milk chocolate and 1 part dark chocolate - tempered. Lots and lots of crispy fried bacon (not sure what that is in amounts) crumbled, maybe a tsp or 1 1/2 tsp of the Salish smoked salt or any other nice smoky salt.

Always best if you can use Ronnie Suburban Special Reserve - but in a pinch the real bacon bits in the jar given a few extra seconds in the microwave to crisp them up work fine. Watch though, they tend to explode in the microwave.

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I don’t think anyone has mentioned the impromptu lunch some of us had at El Camino Real in KCK. I mentioned that my daughter and I were “heading over to the “Dotte for some tacos”. There sure were a lot or me too’s. Aaron and I discussed the merits of Laura’s, El Taco Nazzo, and El Comino Real and decided on the later. Good choice, it may in fact have better tacos than my favorite El Taco Nazzo. May.

First off they press and grill the tortillas to order, which is awesome. Between about 12 of us we had

Al pastor

Cabeza

Carnitas

Lengue

Some sort of Mexican sausage that I can't remember (not chorizo)

Pescado

The Al pastor were great, grilled on a vertical spit with a pinapple on top and sliced like gyro meat.

Cabeza were also great, beefy gelatinous goodness

The canritas were good but the Cabeza and Al Pastor were tough competition.

My daughter had the Pescado, a whole filet grilled and chopped up. She really enjoyed it.

Sad to say I didn't have any of the sausage, but those who did really enjoyed it.

It was pretty funny watching a bunch of white guys with cameras running around the place taking pictures of everything and the staff looking at us like WTF? But they seemed to enjoy our enthusiasm as much as we enjoyed the tacos.

ETA, they served the tacos with separate sides of chopped onion, cilantro, a pico di gallo, and a hot sauce in a squeeze bottle. Niether the pico nor the hot sauce had much of a punch, my only dissapointment. I mean even my daughter thought it was on the mild side.

Edited by chileheadmike (log)

That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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It would be hard to overstate the extent to which using made-to-order tortillas improved every taco. The tortillas at most taquerias are cardboard by comparison.

Of the tacos I tried I think my favorite may have been the picadillo. I liked it as much as or more than the al pastor.

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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It would be hard to overstate the extent to which using made-to-order tortillas improved every taco. The tortillas at most taquerias are cardboard by comparison.

Of the tacos I tried I think my favorite may have been the picadillo. I liked it as much as or more than the al pastor.

Longaniza was the other unnamed sausage--I didn't try it but it looked terrific.

And yes, the picadillo, what a pleasant surprise. I find it so hard to order anything but the pastor here, I really haven't plumbed the depths of the menu (though one time they were prepping some bacon-wrapped shrimp that looked delicious).

But the picadillo...often just a serving of lightly seasoned ground beef, here was a real picadillo, like you might use for stuffing peppers of something, gently seasoned with garlic and spice, but more of the flavor coming from the finely diced carrots and potatoes, all coming together in a rich, velvety sauce. Sort of like tacos de bolognese Mexicano, or some such bastardization. They were delicious.

Appreciate all the thank yous, it was really a blast to put together and enjoy the weekend, and meet so many interesting and enjoyable people. I've got part of a more comprehensive post written that I'll post as time allows.

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:biggrin:

Wow. Just...wow. I see what you meant about the appetizer courses(s) at the Gathering: I'd easily make the same error I made last year, and fill up on the yummy cheeses and such before the main courses were served.

I'm with you, Maggie: as soon as I have a job, I'll start saving up for next year.

:biggrin:

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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Sorry I haven't said much since I returned, but it's just been a whirlwind of activity. I finally had a chance to sit down at the laptop, process all the pictures, upload them to the blog, blah, blah, blah. I'm intending to write a six-part series that will start this Friday and will cover pre, during, and post Heartland Gathering events.

As many others have said, I wanted to thank Aaron and Judy for an outstanding job. I was only fortunate enough to be at the Saturday dinner and the Sunday brunch, but it was enough to remind me of why I return every year for the camaraderie, the fun, and the food. And of course, as always, there was never a short supply of any of them.

Honestly, the thing that scared me the most was that my simple salt & pepper focaccia that I made for the cheese and hors d'oeuvre course would get lost amongst all the other breads and crackers that had been brought. I needn't have worried. By the time I remembered to get a shot of the interior crumb of the bread, only four squares were left.

The dinner was also nothing short of amazing. I think we as a group have really started to grasp the concept of better portion control. :biggrin: It was also a blast helping out Edsel with his meat course. I never knew what it was like to rice 20 pounds of carefully cooked, cooled, and then reheated potatoes before last weekend. Now I know.

I also wanted to extend a personal thank you to Mr. Shaw, who finally managed to convince me that I would be missing something very important if I didn't come to Kansas City this year.

I'm not going to share a ton of the pictures that I took here on eG, simply because so many others are going to be sharing similar photos. Well, that and if I shared them all here, why on earth would you come visit my blog to see them there! :raz:

However, one shot that I will share is probably one that is self-serving, but clearly demonstrates that you can make good bread in a professional kitchen as well as a room at the Best Western:

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Side shot of the rosemary and garlic focaccia crumb. From course #1 of the dinner on Saturday night.

And don't worry, I plan on sharing the recipe and technique (words and pictures) for the focaccia bread on the blog so that anyone who'd like to try it is more than welcome to.

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I've been around here for a long, long time, seen friends come and go, but the Heathland Gathering is a given. The first Heartland Gathering took place In Grand Rapids, Michigan, in, what, 2002? Maybe twenty people hanging at Matthew Beaverson's house after enjoying the night before, a tremendous dinner at the best local restaurant arranged by eGullet member Alex.

It was such a funky small gathering that we crashed at local friend's houses, and cooked straight from the Farmer's Market. In a friend's kitchen. Matthew had a wall of Maker's Mark and the good times rolled.

The Gathering is much more organized, better attended and frankly, freaking amazing. But as a history geek, I feel I have to describe the beginnings.

And as I've thought, year after year, why doesn't another forum take on something so glorious?

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I also wanted to extend a personal thank you to Mr. Shaw, who finally managed to convince me that I would be missing something very important if I didn't come to Kansas City this year.

I thought it was *I* who convinced you. Sniff, sniff. :wink:

you can make good bread in a professional kitchen as well as a room at the Best Western

You call that *good* bread? Dude, we could've gotten that out of a freezer case and thawed it! :laugh::wink:

I am obviously KIDDING and, again, can't tell you how much it meant to the Gathering that you made the herculean effort to drive all the way down and produce such incredible edibles for us. i think we're almost even for the foie in Ann Arbor. :wink:

I think you should sell your story and become an ad rep for Best Western (think "no, but I slept at a Holiday Inn last night!"). You're the best. Again, thanks for being such a trooper.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I also wanted to extend a personal thank you to Mr. Shaw, who finally managed to convince me that I would be missing something very important if I didn't come to Kansas City this year.

I thought it was *I* who convinced you. Sniff, sniff. :wink:

you can make good bread in a professional kitchen as well as a room at the Best Western

You call that *good* bread? Dude, we could've gotten that out of a freezer case and thawed it! :laugh::wink:

I am obviously KIDDING and, again, can't tell you how much it meant to the Gathering that you made the herculean effort to drive all the way down and produce such incredible edibles for us. i think we're almost even for the foie in Ann Arbor. :wink:

I think you should sell your story and become an ad rep for Best Western (think "no, but I slept at a Holiday Inn last night!"). You're the best. Again, thanks for being such a trooper.

OK, it was a combination of Mr. Shaw's encouragement and your well-meaning harassment that changed my mind. And I'm beginning to think that it was one expensive piece of foie gras back in Ann Arbor (3 years ago, I might add) that I have now ALMOST paid back to you. Goodness, you're like a loan shark! :biggrin:

Seriously though, I really had an outstanding 36 hours in Kansas City and between the dinner on Saturday and the brunch on Sunday at Crum Farm, I would totally do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I also agree with MaggieTheCat ... why don't other regions do gatherings of their own?

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In spite of a night of call I now have a night's sleep under my belt - thank you nurse Terry! I'm starting to feel a little human again.

Luggage showed up at 4 pm, and in spite of an apparent inspection - my Makers Mark and Cynar seem to have arrived with my luggage. I guess those 2 bottles, 3 bottles of BBQ sauce and 4 tins of Maesri Red Curry Paste explain why the luggage weighed so much. Cecelia - Rona's mom - recommended the Maesri - said it was even better than the Mae Ploy. I'll be in search of their Masseman version when I get back home.

My pictures are pretty weak this year - no camera at Manifesto or the farmers market, no charged battery on the BBQ crawl, and spending all my time cooking on Saturday - means I didn't get very many shots. Last year I had Stacie - Santo Grace's guest to use my camera for me. Hope she's around again next time!

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Here's a classic eG picture - FG describing the course and Tobi photographing the food.

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Kristin frying tempura (not in bare feet this year!) and Chris Hennes praying to the cleaning gods that they won't bring any more dishes.

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Aaron's oldest admiring the chard at Crum farm.

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And totally thrilled with the little zucchini he found.

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Lucas's 'eggplant with nose'.

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Kristin frying tempura (not in bare feet this year!) and Chris Hennes praying to the cleaning gods that they won't bring any more dishes.

That is a great picture of Chris and it really does look like he is praying! He did an excellent job on those dishes.

Chris, did you and your wife ever make it out of the kitchen and get a chance to eat??

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Can someone list the crops in the Crum's fields?  I didn't make the walk all the way up to the back and regret it.  Tomatoes, chard, eggplant, herbs, potatoes, and ...

Let's see, chard of several varieties - the chef's in town like the green stuff best because the red stuff 'bleeds'. A row of a couple of varieties of kale. Some cabbage, broccoli, summer squashes of several varieties, eggplants, peppers, onions, garlic, asparagus closer to the house. I'm trying to recall what she told me was in the greenhouse - I think it might be rhubarb starts.

She wants strawberries next year and is clearing a spot where the old compost heap had been.

There must be potatoes because they were in the root cellar. And of course tomatoes - tons of the cherry varieties especially. There was also an apiary - apparently taken care of by a neighbour. I did get some pictures of that.

Got to be lettuce in there somewhere too - but I didn't recall seeing it - must have been behind the fence to keep the critters away.

They planted some fruit trees last year - apple and pear as I recall - a couple didn't survive the winter.

I actually have more pictures of the crops and various tress than I have of people - what does that say about me as a photographer?

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Can someone list the crops in the Crum's fields?  I didn't make the walk all the way up to the back and regret it.  Tomatoes, chard, eggplant, herbs, potatoes, and ...

Let's see, chard of several varieties - the chef's in town like the green stuff best because the red stuff 'bleeds'. A row of a couple of varieties of kale. Some cabbage, broccoli, summer squashes of several varieties, eggplants, peppers, onions, garlic, asparagus closer to the house. I'm trying to recall what she told me was in the greenhouse - I think it might be rhubarb starts.

She wants strawberries next year and is clearing a spot where the old compost heap had been.

There must be potatoes because they were in the root cellar. And of course tomatoes - tons of the cherry varieties especially. There was also an apiary - apparently taken care of by a neighbour. I did get some pictures of that.

Got to be lettuce in there somewhere too - but I didn't recall seeing it - must have been behind the fence to keep the critters away.

They planted some fruit trees last year - apple and pear as I recall - a couple didn't survive the winter.

I actually have more pictures of the crops and various tress than I have of people - what does that say about me as a photographer?

you took a pretty good shot at it - I'll add a couple of notes . . .

They do grow potatoes but on some leased land a few miles away (quite near me); the corn is also grown there.

I believe there is/was fennel in addition to what you listed.

It's way too hot for lettuce here now; when Aaron and I visited in June they had a beautiful patch of lettuce that was already too bitter to do anything with - same thing happened to me this year due to an early hot spell. We'll try again in the fall.

Believe it or not, I am alrealdy looking forward to the heirloom dinner at Starker's. I couldn't make the bluestem one last night - just too soon after the 4 days of gluttony - but I think by next Monday I'll be ready to climb back on the horse.

Did you ever figure out what the trees were?

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Chris, did you and your wife ever make it out of the kitchen and get a chance to eat??

We did (though I admit we ate several courses standing in the kitchen—we were the world's worst table companions, very bad about holding up our end of the conversation! Sorry mamagotcha!). I think at that moment I was probably actually praying to the plating gods that we would have enough of that smoked Salmon :smile:.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I believe there is/was fennel in addition to what you listed.

Did you ever figure out what the trees were?

Yes, forgot the fennel - someone left with some didn't they?

The trees with the sawtooth edges were mulberry - we actually got some berries from them which were quite delicious.

I'm going to put a picture of the other leaf up - maybe someone will recognize it.

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Such a great time this weekend - nice to meet everyone! Sometime I'll maybe gather some more specific observations/memories on the two days I participated (Thursday and Saturday), but everyone else seems to be doing a good job of recounting. I'm enjoying seeing the pictures, wishing I had brought a camera along. Saturday was quite the feast - I keep thinking about that cheese array alone, not to mention everything else.

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I finally got my pictures up from the weekend. It's all Kansas City, though not all eG stuff. I got a lot of pictures at Crum Farm, but not much of the other eating. Oops. Pictures are on flickr.

I want to add my and my mother's thanks to the organizers--it was a fantastic weekend. Crum Farm was our favourite meal. The food was great as was the company, but the setting and the Crum family (including my new friend "Buddy" and my new human friend Isaac) really made the meal special.

Saturday's dinner was spectacular, and Toby's cheese course was outstanding. Being cheese-deprived in Japan, I really took advantage of the abundance in volume and variety offered. Yes, I'm a pig! And Toby was especially kind in picking up 4 kinds of root beer for me to try! Lost Trail was the winner of the night, and Foster's was the loser ("natural" doesn't belong next to "root beer"). I didn't try the diet one which I think was Virgil's. The special Virgil's was in a really cool bottle, and it was second in my taste tests.

And Tom needn't have worried about the focaccia being lost next to the other crackers and bread. Once I saw the focaccia was out, I used it exclusively as a carrier for my cheeses, and I ate some naked (the focaccia, not me) just to appreciate the beauty of it. I got most of the leftovers of the second batch of focaccia. First my mother took about 1/3 of the batch, and then I went back and took about 2/3 of what was left. There was still a little left, and Tom offered it to me, but I was too embarrassed to take it, so I said, "No no, it's OK, we have lots." My mother wanted to take the rest, too, but she was also too ashamed to do it. Then today we were talking, and we said, "We should have just taken it! Who cares if we looked like pigs!"

And I for one appreciated the break between Kerry's curry and Edsel (and Tom's) meat dish. I was approaching explosion, and the break helped the food in my stomach digest a little, so I could make room for more food and dessert!

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      Rather good, I must say, and I'd certainly have them again.  I think James said we were the first guests he'd tried them out on.  Sausage gravy, for those of you who are wondering, with just the right level of cayenne.  After that, if you have room, you can have your choice of eggs with bacon, tomato and mushrooms.
       
      For the first few days of our stay we were deeply involved in festival affairs and weren't able to have much more than bed and breakfast at the lodge.  Not that that's anything to be sneezed at, and it was very pleasant to return exhausted in the evening and be met at the door by a James, then ushered into the drawing room for a nightcap - a cocktail, or perhaps a glass of James G's excellent nocino.
       
      On the final day, though, we thought we'd be having a free day and arranged to have two of our friends who had travelled with us from Wellington join us for afternoon tea, to be followed by a proper dinner.  As it turned out we got involved in a photo session in the morning followed by helping pack out of the hall much of the festival had been in, and ended up with only minutes to spare to dress accordingly (one must!) before we were due for tea.  But we made it:
       

      (Photo courtesy Pen-y-bryn)
       
      What a splendid group of people, don't you think?  That's Mrs Hudson (the younger) on the left, then Professor Carwardine, myself (Colonel Hawthorne) and Captain Smollett.  A very distinguished gathering indeed - you may note we had abandoned most of our steampunk accoutrements in favour of a more pure Victorian look (save for my cravat pin, but you can't see that).  Our host was no less splendid:
       

       
      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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