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Peter Green

The WGF in Bangkok

156 posts in this topic

An idle moment. I don't have to be in class for another half hour. I'll step out of sequence, and let real time stream in for a moment. With Nicole's class posted today, I'm behind two dinners and a class (and it was a great class, Wilson from Melbourne's The Botanical).

So far there have been no hitches. Malcolm Omond, the new F&B here has been on the move, and I suspect his life is "complicated" at the moment, but he has a good team here, and things are holding together, with only a few things being tuned as the week progresses.

And the Russians are here, just not as part of the WGF. They're running a promotion in Aqua, so hopefully I'll cut some free moments this evening before the Gala to chat with them a bit. Russian Standard was pretty much the vodka of choice when I was in Moscow last year, and what little I've been able to read, they appear to be making a push on the higher end of the market internationally. It's just going to cost me a change of clothing, as I know I'll be running with perspiration as soon as I step outside (Aqua is in the courtyard). Still, a good vodka martini can be quite cooling.......

Class today will be Suzanne Tracht. Hopefully she'll be doing her pot roast. I bet she does, as they seem to be following their dinner menus with some degree of accuracy. There have been some mumbles, but I'm quite content with this. I like seeing the details on how things are put together either before, or after.

In case you're wondering, I did put a foot outside of the hotel today. As always, I love what I can find in the stalls, but I'll have next week for that (after the WGF). Right now, I'm saving myself (plus, I still have to fit into my tux tonight).

Cheers,

peter

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Romain Fornell – Caelis – Barcelona

Senorio De Alange Pardina 2004

The Yogurt

foie gras / dry fruits muesli

The Norway Lobster

cooked and chilled / “Arborio” rice cream / mushroom tartar

Fino En Rama 2000

The Macaroni

chicken – lobster / celery / old parmesan

Senorio de Anlange Tempranillo 2004

Duckling

Coriander crust / crispy foie cream / reduced coffee juice

Palacio Quemado Cosecha 2000

Mascarpone & Woodland Strawberries

Pedro Ximenez 2000

60% of this was going to be a repeat of the cooking class. That’s not a bad thing, as it was a cooking class I enjoyed. It may not have been one I could recreate, but I could enjoy.

For this we were back in Biscotti, where we’d started with Partrizia di Benedetto. Clean lines, slate ceilings, and that big, beautiful open kitchen. As I’ve mentioned before, you get the room filled, and you have a wonderful buzz of conversation filling all of the audio dead spots.

We’d started with the Pardina, and this was just as good as it had been the other day. Very fresh, and working well to stabilize my body temperature at something below “braise”. This also went well with the loaf of rosemary bread they put on the table and we ripped to shreds (sorry, we were too fast for photos of the whole loaf).

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The first dish, the yogurt, felt a bit heavier than in the cooking class. There it had had more of a moussiness to it, whereas now, while lighter than a pate, it was still more settled. And we didn’t get the little gold cap and the sleeve of muesli (already in). I liked those touches. Instead we had a pubic fuzz of strangled sugar that just got in the way, as opposed to directly adding the clean textural contrast that the muesli provided (along with the sweetness).

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A small glass arrived, which seemed odd. But what it was meant for was a very dry sherry, the Fino En Rama. Dry, very dry, and delicate. There’s a bit of saltiness to it, and a clarity to drinking. I’m surprised. But I don’t drink a lot of sherry these last few years, so maybe this isn’t news. One of my dinner companions nods his head, and feels this is about what it should be. This would be great with tapas or Oriental food.

The Lobster that it’s served with is fair enough, but I would have preferred the shellfish a little warmer to counter the chilled topping. The “Arborio Rice Cream” is a risotto-like mix that carries the mushroom tartare very well. Overall, this is a good match with the fino, as the dish is very sweet and “white”, offsetting the dryness and salt in the sherry.

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The Macaroni was a disappointment, much because I had been talking it up so much from our cooking class. Then it had come across very full-frontal, with a thick gravy of foie gras making us run for more buns. Here Romain had tried to lighten the dish up, so as not to overwhelm the guests who were in for a much larger meal than what had happened in the class. “C’mon, I like being overwhelmed”, say I. But he’d done a slightly thinner sauce, with smaller macaroni. Presentation was excellent, and if I hadn’t fed off of the bigger sibling the day before I would have been more enthusiastic, but this dish suffered in the comparison.

Likewise, the Tempranillo, a wine I found to be a good, “sitting around and drinking” wine, wasn’t at home with this setting, feeling like the pretty girl who finds herself in the room of cigar smoking padrones.

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But the duckling that came next was excellent. Like the duck they’d served at this day’s cooking class, this thing seemed to be on breast enhancement therapy, with a huge amount of red, bleeding meat there to be enjoyed. Well, enjoyed at least by me. Just as rare squab has not been popular with the Asian market, duck with any juices doesn’t really go over well here. However, the other Asian concern, the gamey smell, just wasn’t there. Like the lunch, this had been drawn away and tamed by fresh spices. The reduced coffee gave a nice background to it, too. And a terrine of foie gras? Who am I to complain?

And the Palacio, that we’d enjoyed before, was a good match for this. Strong, lush, with lots of fruit to go with the fowl. For me, a very nice finish to the meal; redemption for the weakness of the spirit that led to the toning down of the macaroni.

The dessert, well, as I said, I’m not a dessert person. But the wine, the Pedro Ximenez 2000, was excellent. A sticky syrup of plum flavours, something you might take for a bad cough (sorry). But the sweetness of this helped the dessert immensely, giving it body and depth.

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I called for another glass of the Fino, as I found it hard to believe that these two wines were related. But, as was explained (patiently) to me, the Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes for the PX 2000 are dried on mats until they give up about half their volume, becoming more raisins than grapes. These are then used to develop the viscously sweet concoction we’re drinking here.

A good dinner, but living in the shadow of a better lunch. If I’d missed the one, I’d have enjoyed this the more.

Note - Edited for dyslexia


Edited by Peter Green (log)

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Cooking with Paul Wilson – The Botanical – Melbourne

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“I’m a big lad”.

Yeah, and Australia is just an island off of Asia.

With Paul Wilson taking us through his cooking, it’s like class with Hagrid. He’s that large. I keep expecting him to bring out a griffin or something to eat one of us.

The good side is, as he says, he’s got all the pots and pans he needs. No one’s going to scrap with him over them.

The lad has an excellent pedigree, with a string of successes in London and Melbourne. Particularly in Melbourne. He was the Good Food Guide’s Chef of the Year in 2002, with the Botanical, a reworked pub, taking Best Restaurant at the same time.

Here’s what we were going to do:

Carpaccio of Hiramasa Kingfish

with Rock and Pacific Oyster

Roasted Snapper with Braised Wild Rice

And Calamari, Ink Sauce

Quinces Poached in Spiced Wine

With Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse

Our wines were Penfolds

Koonunga Hill, Chardonnay 2006

Bin 8, Cabernet Shiraz 2004

Bin 138, Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2004

So let’s start with a bit of Kingfish. The canny Aussies are labeling this as Hiramasa in an attempt to entice the Japanese sushi market. The fish are farmed, but done so in tidal estuaries. This way the tidal action gives some muscle workout for the fish, and although farmed can have decent texture. He describes the meat off of this as similar to salmon, although I’d say the only similarity is in the oiliness of the fish, which means it’ll lend itself well to serious chilling, if not freezing. Which is what they do, of course, for bringing it to market, shipping it in ice slurries.

In pride of place in front of the fish are the oysters, two different types – Pacific and wee little Sydney Rocks (not Flats, today). Being a Vancouver boy, I’m very partial to oysters, and I well appreciate the meat to shell ratio you get in the rocks.

And the oysters are well accompanied by a jar of Sevruga caviar…….anything is well accompanied by Sevruga, come to think of it.

The curious ones, though, are the finger limes. These look for all the world like large chilies to me, with a ruddy colour, and drips of a blood like liquid oozing out.

Paul dabs some EVOO into the pan, and throws in a finely chopped handful of shallots to get down to work. Then he turns to the oysters, giving us a quick lesson in shucking, working the blade into the hinge, and then working with that Braille like feel until you get the moment where you can twist and pop it open.

In Australia they generally still buy their oysters shucked. It’s just an old habit. But think of the precious juice you’re losing, and all the things that you can accomplish with it! I still remember the oyster juice glaze that Zieboldt from the French Laundry did on his cauliflower pannacotta. Paul, after a quick smell of the sea in his hands, pours aside the juice for his use.

There was a small discussion of buying oysters. The obvious thing is to look to the weight. An oyster full of juice has learned to keep its trap shut and has stayed fresh, retaining its fluids, whereas a lightweight will have been opened at some inopportune time and is on its way out. And when you shuck, you should have that smell of the sea.

For the shucked oysters still popular in Australia, you’re just going to have to trust your fishmonger. Obviously, if he’s got some sense of ethics (and self-preservation) he’s not going to want sick customers, so that’s something. Otherwise, you’ll just have to go by the freshness of everything else in the shop.

I’ll stick to having the shell on.

The shallots are ready, as are the oysters. It seems a shame not to eat them raw, but they go into the shallots, and are gently warmed, going opaque, at which time they’re removed.

The vinegar goes into the pot to reduce, and the juices go in as well, concentrating to a syrup. For the vinegar, he’s using a Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, which has a great smell as it heats down.

Having shivved the oysters, we turn the knife to the fish. It’s firm from freezing (Glad wrapped – that always sounds so happy) and ready to take the blade, which runs long down against the grain, taking the meat away in a shaving.

Paul freely admits to the general abuse of the language by chefs. Carpaccio, stolen without shame by chefs from the 15 th Century Italian painter, Vittore Carpaccio, who is now only remembered for the fact that he uses a lot of red, and so Harry’s in Venice came up with their dish of marinated beef. And now it’s used everywhere.

He then gets the dressing ready. A selection of herbs are used; chives, baby mache, rocket, water cress, shallots, the zest of a lime, and the flesh (or caviar) scraped out of the finger limes. A little Chablis goes in with this, a wine that works with fish very well. Toss in the oyster juice, a little sugar, sea salt and pepper corns, and some light olive oil.

Paul puts up a good call for the Aussie olive oil producers, and he’s using one from there that’s lighter and peppier than the Italians or Spanish.

Now we turn our attention back to the pannacotta. The Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar has reduced. We squeeze out some gelatin sheets and add them in with the cooked, (chopped for the Pacific) oysters, and then, once it sets, we give it a proper seeing to with Mr. Buzzy (the hand blender). Then dab in some Tabasco, Worcestshire, whatever you like. Once you’re certain it’s cooled to the temperature of the cream, go ahead and fold in the soft whipped cream in the mix. Then put it into some ring molds, and don’t even start to think about how you’re going to get it out of those.

Plate the fish, use a cookie cutter if you want a really circular look to it (me, I’ll just fold it in, I hate to lose good fish). Have some hot water handy to heat a knife, and slide that around the ring mold to get the mousse away so you can top the fish with it.

Now you’re on a clock. The rest of this has to be done quickly.

The mousse is going to start melting. It’s warm in here, so the mousse is going to start melting as soon as it’s out of the fridge. You top the mousse with one of those pretty little Rock oysters you’ve held back (and massive self restraint has kept you from eating on its own during all of this). You garnish with some cucumber strips which will help the overall texture, and then add some of the julliened onions. The greens are arranged, and a heaping spoonful of Sevruga caviar is placed atop. The dressing is applied about the edges of the pile, the lime caviar in the apron in contrast to the black opulence atop.

Now you really have to move, as the lime is going to cook the fish, along with the mousse melting. This is not a plate you can have hanging around in kitchen.

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Speaking of melting, Paul is a man after my own glands. While it’s not overbearingly hot, the humidity in here is having its wicked way with him, and he’s having to step back from his pans from time to time and given himself a mopping down.

Next……

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Roasted Snapper with Braised Wild Rice and Calamari with Ink Sauce[/b[

Mr. Wilson feels that a good dish should concentrate on, at most, three or four ingredients on a plate. Looking at some of the dish we’re going to be doing, though, we’re pushing that.

Snapper’s a common (and tasty) fish in Melbourne, and the sample he’s brought is a beautiful, silvery colour. What we have here (and back in my home), a red snapper, is what they would call a Red Emperor (Mao?) down under.

And then there’s the wild rice. As Paul says, “this is not technically a rice, but a grain. But who cares?”

We start by cooking the rice (actually, we start by soaking the rice, but that would’ve been an hour or more earlier, and we don’t have that sort of time). We’re going for a pilaf or pilau, starting with olive oil, garlic, and onions, working to caramelize the onions and garlic. Then toss in a few stalks of rosemary. This will cook to the point where it falls apart and “becomes one with the rice” (which has a nice Zen cooking ring to it).

The rice is drained, and tossed in, and then fried lightly to open up the starch, as you would a risotto (a pilaf, by definition, is first fried in oil). Then you add in two parts chicken stock for one part rice, tap in some butter, and put the lid on and bake for 25 minutes in the oven, giving an occasional stir so it doesn’t stick.

A lemon has been confit’d, just slices sitting in some lemon juice and salt for a couple of days. It’s already been blowtorched to caramelize as the hotel’s smoke alarms may have something to say to us if we start blasting here.

He has some fish and veal stock already, so we use the bones from this snapper for the sauce. For this, there’s a large, very hot pot that takes a big splash of olive oil. Into this go the bones taken from the snapper, which are pushed down at first into the hot bottom. After this picks up some colour, in goes the butter, some salt and pepper, and then the onion and garlic.

This sweats for a bit (like Paul and I), and then you introduce balsamic vinegar (always the vinegar before the wine), rosemary (keeping the consistency with the rice flavours), some sugar, and some mushrooms, which work to mellow the mix - countering the acidity of the vinegar – and darkening the colour.

While the sauce is reducing to a syrup, we julienne the calamari meat and marinate them with oil, chilis, and whatever else takes our fancy. The tentatcles we set aside for garnish.

Once the stock reduces, we hit it with some fruity red wine, and reduce again, before tossing in the fish and veal stocks we mentioned earlier. Then add the ink. He buys the stuff from the specialty markets, but there’s nothing to stop you from taking it yourself when you clean your fresh squid (nothing beyond a fear of Yoonhi killing me for getting black ink all over the kitchen). Then reduce to about ¾ of the volume, and finish with some cream and some butter to give it thickness and shine.

The ink gives a great look, while remaining a subtle background flavour.

The snapper is seasoned now on the open side (never on the presentation side), and then fried in shallow oil, Paul’s heat resistance fingers holding it down to prevent curling. Again, some rosemary is tossed into the pan to provide that consistent line of flavour. He also adds a bit of butter to give colour to the skin. When the fish is almost done, the tentacles are fried alongside (they go very quick). At the last moment we put the lemon confit on top of the fish skin in the pan.

The rice is taken from the oven and emulsified with some butter and a bit of stock to ensure consistency, and then the julienned calamari is put in the rice to cook.

And now we can plate.

The rice lays down first, then the sauce is “freestyled” around the rice, the fish goes on, and the tentacles go on top of that.

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Which leaves us with quinces poached in spiced wine with chestnut and chocolate mousse

Quinces are one of those fruits that go back a long ways. And, being completely inedible raw, you have to wonder how people figured out that if you cooked them for a few hours, they’d be a nice treat.

The quinces are in for a poaching. First, the spices – cinnamon and star anise – are dry roasted after they’ve had a couple of drops of water on them for a minute or two. Once they’ve opened up (and we can smell it quick well in the front) a serious amount of Pinot Noir (or something else with good fruit) goes in. That cooks away like a merry old Christmas, and the quinces are peeled.

Using the peels in the poach can work well. The pectins will give a nice red colour, but we’re using Pinot Noir, so it hardly matters. We zest in some orange peel.

Once peeled, you’ve got a two hour wait or so, with the quinces submerged in the wine and spices (use a piece of greaseproof paper to keep down), until you reach a point at which the quinces will suddenly go to sponge, and pierce easily.

While you wait for tha happy moment, work up a sabayon for the mousse. We’ll add pureed chestnuts to this, as the chestnuts always go well with bittersweet chocolate.

Some gelatin is put in brandy to soak (I like this dish!), while more brandy is introduced to sugar in a bowl and then the egg yolks are whisked in over the baine marie, again, going for soft peaks and ribbony texture.

And add some whisky.

The mousse needs 24 hours, and the quinces are best soaked overnight, so this is all a day-ahead thing. Luckily for us, all the parts are already prepped.

On the bane marie we warm up our chooolate and add the brandy soaked gelatin, and warm up some cream in another bowl and which up, getting our temperatures aligned.

And add some brandy to the sabayon and warm it, before introducing the sabayon into the chocolate, spooning it in, rolling them together gently. Once that works, get the cream folded in, gently to retain the air.

As a note, using two different chocolates can get some nice textures in this.

As another note, as he struggles to spatula out all of the material, quoting from his own cookbook, “You follow this to get 4 portions. How to you do 4 portions in a restaurant? Four hundred, yeah. Forty, that’s easy. Four?”

From here he pours it into a tupperware to set and puts it in the fridge. He wants to treat it like an ice cream, scooping it out to show the air in the mousse’s texture.

So, we’re ready.

The quince is in the bowl, surrounded by the wine like a soup, and then the mousse is balled out onto the top of it, with a bit of chocolate for appearance.

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Our lunch wines were Penfolds. James Mullen is working with them, and he gave a good intro to the importers, BB&B (Bangkok Beer and Beverages), and was an enthusiastic supporter of the quince dessert, seeing as the recipe called for three to three and a half bottles of red.

The Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is a partially oaked (3 months) Chardonnay, with a very vibrant impact on the palate. A good, light wine to go with the type of cooking we’re seeing here.

The Bin 138, a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre is likewise very fruity, but not too strong. It goes well with the fish, and particularly with the ink sauce in the fish dish. It’s also a nice companion for the quince.

The Bin 8 almost got away from us, but our table took notice and called it in. This was a very fruity cab shiraz, and a pleasant wine for us to finish up on.

Good class. And there are a number of people fighting to get the two pre-release copies of Paul’s book Botanical that are on display. I glanced through it, and I liked what I saw. Beyond the photo work of the quality you’d expect, the instructions are clear, and the range of dishes looks particularly interesting. I’m tied down for shipping weight, but I may look for this when I get back to Canada next year.

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As far as the eating goes, excellent. The oyster pannacotta is something I’m going to do when I’m in Vancouver and can get fresh oysters. It was good. Worth setting aside my immediate needs for just wolfing them down. And the ink sauce was very interesting, a flavour far more subtle and attractive than I’d expected.

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The quince? Where am I going to find quince? Still, this recipe would work with pears, too (and be quicker).

Sated, I figured it was time for a swim, and after that, maybe some more writing. Or maybe just a nap.

A nap sounds good.

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Snow in Bangkok – Dinner with Steven Snow of Fin – Byron Bay – Australia

I’m not certain what I’d been expecting coming into this. I like fish, but I often feel that there’s only so much to be done with them. And so often I’m wrong about this, finding the dishes to be outstanding.

While I have to live with the fact that I’m not a quick learner, there’s a certain benefit to living a life of happy surprises.

Forrest Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2006

Sashimi Tower with Pumpkin Salsa

and Beetroot Reduction

Stonewall, Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Soft Shell Crab in Chilli Tempura with Yuzu Sauce

Xanadu Secession, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc 2005

Piri Piri King Prawns

Xanadu Secession, Chardonnay 2004

Red Emperor

With Mirin, Lime and Tamarind

Xanadu, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia 2004

Lemon Myrtle and Ginger Pannacotta

With Sweet Finger Lime Caviar

This was Steven Snow’s second night in Shintaro. I know they’d been working up the wines yesterday, so I was interested in how the pairings would work. They had the wine guys out first, with their agent, Renaud Bancilhon, from Red & White International out of Singapore, did the opening honours for Forrest Estate out of the Marlborough in New Zealand. Not bad, but when you talk New Zealand, you generally talk the Marlborough (and Hawke’s Bay, too….okay, I talk a lot). The white we were sipping now, the Sauvigon Blanc, was about as fresh as you could get, almost pulled off the vines, and made a favourable impression on a room full of hot drinkers. Lots in the nose, and a bit tangy (pomelo-ish? Is anyone using that yet?) They’ve got a holding of about 200 acrews in the Marlborough, with other interests in Hawke’s Bay (yeah!) and Central Otago.

For Xanadu out of the Margaret River in Western Oz they had Glenn Goodall in the house, the winemaker. Like the Marlborough Valley, the Margaret River region puts out some very nice stuff. Xanadu’s right next door to Leeuwen Estates, with 60 hectares of vines. Dr. John Forrest is an interesting man, another happy soul who’s found wine after working for years as a molecular scientist.

As Glenn says, they rely mainly on the purity and quality of their fruit. You don’t have to do much else. You get a rich, opulent Chardonnay, and, given the synergies with Bordeaux’s climate, you get a really full Cabernet (which would be an interesting match with the Red Emperor later). They don’t have a huge area, but they do have a great variety of soils that they can play with, in particular a wealth of Marri loams, the best soil type in W.A., the result of the Marri trees getting their roots into the ground and blossom in the air. Okay, this can cause “bird pressure” as they say - which means things get Hitchcockian at times – but they can always fall back on nets if needs be.

Then it was Steven Snow’s turn up front. Not a shy man, you just like him once he starts talking. He’s having fun doing what he enjoys, which is feeding people. He’s worked his way up from Sydney in the 80’s to South Africa (and its seafood), to Southwest France (where he was promoted to sous chef, which meant he got to spend his mornings in the restaurant’s boat bringing in the goods), and then returned to Australia with an excellent background in seafood. Back to Australia, some time in Sydney, and then up to the North Coast of NSW, coming to rest in Byron Bay (which is a great place to come to rest….especially with a couple of bottles of champagne on the beach….but we were younger then).

His attitude is that it’s “what you don’t do to a fish that makes it good”. I’d read much the same on his web site, and this is what had given me some trepidation. I’ve a Vancouverite’s snobbishness about seafood, and was worried I’d be let down by austere handlings.

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The Sashimi Tower didn’t seem like me to bode well. I’d seen things like this in the past, and they seemed, well, busy. This one was difficult to work with, with circlets of nori separating the tuna, hamachi (?), salmon, and ikura, but once you spilled it over, it was a nice combination. I’m a sucker for salmon eggs (I need salt). The dollop of pumpkin gave a good side taste, with the crunch that ran through it. As Steven had said, he was looking for the beetroot sauce to give some earthiness to the dish, and this worked. Messy, but it worked.

And the Stonewall that was poured was clear as a bell. A nice wine with the flavours we had on the plate, bringing fruit to the palate.

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This dish was the delight of the night! The crab itself was good, hot and crispy, with a brilliant plumb and aioli sauce, but it was the spatzle underneath that I can’t get out of my mind. He’d worked up a mousse from the trimmings of the red snapper used later, with some lemon rind, rice flour, and a spot of cream (if you wanted) and some egg to bind. The trick is to get the noodles into an ice water bath right away, as the chill will get the textrure to the point it had here, where it felt just like an Austrian noodle. Mixed in with shelled edamame, and it was one of my favourite things in the WGF so far.

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The Piri Piri prawns drew on some of his time in Africa, with the Portugese/Mozambique approach. Buttery, and full of flavour, with a good (if not Thai hot) “bite” in the chilis, and a broth that went well with the rice. Good, but I can’t say it did much for me. But I’m not a big fan of prawns on their own.

Before I talk about the fish, I need to mention the Cabernet. It was chilled. My first reaction was that there’d been a cock up somewhere, but then I noticed it was this way for everyone, and maybe there was a plan. I tried a sip, and found a very full “grape juice” in my mouth. Okay, we’d let this run.

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The snapper (“Red Emperor” Down Under) was done just the way I like it, crisped on the presentation side, and then more slowly cooked through from the meat. This was sitting on a “pudding” of twice cooked sushi rice, which gave a feel of, well, rice pudding, a bit of caramelization crusting the top. The tempura of enoki was something I’m going to have to try at home, it was so good, and the kelp was sunimono’d so that the pickle flavour worked against the oil in the fish and tempura. Nice.

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Dessert was the lemon myrtle and ginger pannacotta, with the ginger coming through in strength. The lemon myrtle that he’d picked from his garden to bring along for this was a nice back scent in the dish, and the half moon tuille gave you a nice finishing look.

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And how could we end our meal without some treats?

Steven’s more than happy to talk about his food, and we didn’t have to bully him into talking about how he’d done some of the things we’d had on our plates. The cabernet was planned to be chilled, and now that we’d had more glasses brought out unchilled, I agreed with him that it would’ve been too intimidating for the food to have had it full on. But it was a nice Cab, and we were quite happy to have a few more glasses of it before fading out for the lobby, where we could enjoys some Macalan (the two girls handing out the chits were starting to avoid us, I noticed).

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The last night (saturday), and I'm way behind (posted Wednesday night's dinner today).

As a quick update, Susur's class was very good. I'm racing to get the notes for that written, as he provided no written recipes in the class.

After that it was a tour of Italy, which somehow ended up with a Batasiolo Barolo sitting in front of me, and now it's time to get ready for Roberto Donna from Galileo in Washington, DC.

Risotto with white truffle is the middle dish.

This is going to be a good finish.

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After being denied eGullet access for almost a month, this was a most pleasant surprise to wake up to. The best morning's reading I've had in a long time.

Home stretch now, Peter, you can do it!


Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

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Thanks, Julian,

It's officially over now, and I've got a lot of writing to catch up on.

A good finish last night, both at Roberto Donna's dinner, after in the lobby, and after outside catching up (also) with a bowl of rice and stir fried bean sprouts with nampla and chili dressing.

I think I owe everyone Suzanne Tracht now.

Cheers,

Peter

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Suzanne Tracht – Jar – Los Angeles

Suzanne’s taking us through a good, solid, cook-this-at-home series. This is probably one of the best classes for a lot of people like me (and most of the rest of the class) who don’t have industrial kitchen equipment about (“pass me the liquid nitrogen, honey”)

The demonstration menu will be

Dungeness Crab

Pomelo, Avocado, Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

Jar’s Signature Pot Roast

Caramelized Onions, Carrots

Banana Cream Pie

Fresh Whipped Cream

Jar is Suzanne’s place. She’s hit that dream of chef’s of having her own restaurant, a modern chophouse in her case, in a great location with a solid, loyal clientele. You can pull that off, you’re doing alright.

She’s assisted by Preech Narkthong, her chef de cuisine, who looks as happy as can be to be back in his hometown of Bangkok.

For wines today we’re going to look at the Rothschild’s, but on their South American side, with

Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay Mapu Chile 2005

Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Chardonnay Maipo Chile 2006

Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere, Mapu Chile 2006

Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Chile 2006

Let’s start with the crab.

This setup is a little different for Suzanne. She does a lot of classes and demos in the restaurant, but there it’s more a case of clustering about in the kitchen and eating as you go.

The recipe is about as straightforward as you can get.

1 lb of Dungeness crab meat, boiled and cleaned

1 Pomelo (in LA they’d use the cocktail grapefruits on the market)

2 avocados

1 red onion, medium size

1 bunch of mint

1 bunch of scallions

4 to 6 limes for juice (she’s basing this on the California limes, which are bigger)

6 cloves of garlic

1 cup of canola oil

1 tbsp of sambal

1 tsp of sugar

2 drops of nampla (what Thai measures nampla in drops?)

This is a very light salad, very Thai, with the fresh herbs and the sweetness of the pomelo. You don’t get the broken up dispersion of a yam som o (that may be my favourite Thai dish, just thinking of the work to break up a pomelo like they do here, seed by seed, gets me excited).

Most of this is the dressing, really. That’s okay. The lime juice starts it all and some garlic is sliced and added, along with sambal. There’s a bit of confusion at the term sambal, but once it’s explained as crushed up chili salsa, everyone is okay.

Then in go the two drops of nampla, and a bit of canola oil. Canola as she wants this to stay on the light side. There’s some sugar to counter the salt (there were only two drops of nampla, what’s to counter?).

The red onion gets julienned, and she does a quick pass on the pomelo, cutting the wedge lengthwise down the middle, then diagonal slicing into thirds.

The avocado are halved, the pit out, and a simple spoon out, then cut in thin wedges. These line the bottom of the bowl.

The smallest of the mint leaves have been picked off, and these are tossed with the crab meat.

Top the crab and mint on the avocado, garnish with some fresh scallion, and then drizzle the dressing and serve.

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Jar Pot Roast

She starts with a “boned out denuded” short rob, about 3-5 pounds

4 carrots

2 large onions

1 bunch of celery

½ bulb garlic (unpeeled, cut horizontally through the cloves)

1 bay leaf

1 cup sherry

2 quarts chicken stock

½ cup vegetable oil

salt and pepper

cream

and horseradish

This is the sort of meat dish that they’re known for The do a lot of braises, and, as they say, this is their signature dish. But they want to lighten this up, so they’ll go with chicken stock for the braise.

First the meat gets a good seasoning from on high with cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Then this is put into the pan for a searing, to seal in the juices and develop the colour. She’s got chef’s fingers, pressing the meat in with her fingertips. Once coloured up, she pulls the meat from the pan, and checks if there’s too much fat.

In the pan she puts the usual with the beef; carrots, onion, celery, garlic. These sweat for a wee bit, then she deglazed with the sherry, and tossed in a bay leaf.

She lifted the meat back in, on top of the vegetables, and then poured on the chicken stock, not completely covering the meat as this is a braise, not a poach. This’ll now cook for about 3 hours.

Now she does the sides. These are pretty straightforward as well. A couple of nice carrots are cleaned, peeled, stalks left on. She dizzles some evoo on the carrots, seasons them, and then puts them in the oven and leaves them there until you can pierce them.

The onions are cut into rings and then caramelized to a golden brown colour (hopefully sometime this year with this oven).

Now, by the miracle of non-linear time, our working version of the pot roast is ready. It’s removed from the braise, the fluid strained off, and then the fluid and meat brought back together. One caution she has here, let the roast/braise cool down to room temperature before you remove it, to avoid drying out.

Then she taunts us by holding up the most beautiful piece of horseradish. It’s long, and looks to me for all the world like the exaggerated elegance of a Thais dancers fingers. Then she gets sidetracked and never tells us what to do with it.

If it was me, and I think this was her plan, I’d steep the horseradish in cream, and then strain and serve on the pot roast. Now, to be fair I found out later that the cream was put on the table for the roast, but none of us realized that was what it was for. Luckily no one had coffee at our table.

But, back to the meat. This went into a bowl, the onion went on top, the roasted carrots were on the side, and some fresh parsely finished the solids. Then she spooned in the juice, and we were there.

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Suzanne talked a little about the restaurant, located in between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. She’s planning on opening another place next year in Century City, but that’s still in the works. What she has now is working well, seating about 110, and doing a good, traditional trade. People want a chop house, people get a chop house.

And, it’s not surprising, when she goes out to eat with the family, the first thing she said was Korean, so meat is popular. Having said that, after the years of steak followed by the pork belly fad, follwed by foie gras, she figures that we’re going to see vegetables making it to the front of the shop soon.

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Dessert was a Banana Cream Pie, although it didn’t look much like a pie. There wasn’t a lot to this, as I think she was getting spooked about how quiet we all were, and she figured it was hunger. She began by dicing up some beautiful looking bananas, then put these in a bowl. She had some pastry cream (milk, sugar, eggs) already done up, and the pastry dough was already done, too, so it was basically just an issue of here assembling the crust, cooking the bananas in the milk, and then cooling. Slap the cooked solidified cream onto the baked crust (already done), and then top with fresh whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a couple of bits of chocolate. A little disappointing, but by this time, with all the sabayons and desserts we’ve already done, I guess I can beat up an egg.

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The wines were interesting. Thierry was back to talk about what the Rothschilds were up to. I remember when he’d brought out the Chileans a couple of years ago, and the reaction was muted. But these were coming along well now.

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The R’s had established their winery in Maipo in 1997, but they’d been working with Concho y Toro before they went their own way, and still have excellent relationships, the Rothschilds’ 150,000 odd cases not even showing up as a blip on the radar for the massive undertakings of the Concho boys (and girls).

The 2005 Chardonnay was unoaked, clean, fruity, and very ready to be drunk (as I usually am…well, maybe not the fruity part…..or the clean part…..) This was a decision that had raised some eyebrows a few years back, as I recall, but it was working for this. You’d drink it happily on a warm day.

The Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend was very interesting. A 50/50 mix. The Chardonnay lending roundness, the Sauvignon Blanc acidity. Like the straight Chardonnay, they want to get the freshness of the fruit.

They’ve just changed wine makers, so it’ll be interesting to see how the 2007 works out. It should be a reasonable match, as the Baroness is very much a “my way or the highway” sort of leader, and she has clear ideas about what she wants to accomplish. Like the whites we were drinking, this was refreshing. The Rothschilds can take a much longer view of things than the other big wineries, looking beyond the bottom line of this quarter.

They sourcing their grapes from Maipo, the Central Valley, and some from down South, where they get a much cooler climate. And to do this, they’ve had to get the growers to change to their rules, and procedures.

It takes awhile.

Actually, it takes them about 5 to 7 years to establish a wine. That’s covering the time to locate the vineyards with the soils they want, and then to develop that vineyard to a point where they can rely on the quality of the material to match what they want to do.

The Carmenere was a treat. This is a grape that never did well in its native Bordeaux, but had taken off big time in Chile with the different weather and soil. It was pretty much the Merlot of Chile, only differing in a slightly later ripening date, and was only differentiated in the last 5 or 6 years.

And the Cab did what Cabs do, putting out a lot of flavour and good fruit in the nose.

These aren’t the great wines of the Rothschilds, of course. They’re not the big Bordeaux, but then again, with the tax structure in Thailand punishing wines to the point of crminal abuse, there’s not much of a market now. It’s a pity, as Thailand is considered one of the more sophisticated markets. It wasn’t that long ago (a decade) when they were one of the biggest markets for wine in Asia.

Maybe there’ll be a change and we’ll see the big reds back here. We’ve got the Grange this year, so there’s some hope. There’s always hope.

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Stairway to Heaven or at least the Mezzanine

Straight out of the class…well, maybe not quite straight. We’d been punishing the remaining bottles of the Rothschilds’ Chileans, and it had sort of kept us occupied a bit….anyways, stumbling back through the lobby, I was just in time for the group photo shoot.

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It’d be hard to miss it. Not only are the pros getting the record down, but the kibitzers like me are thronging as well. Cameras and videos and cell phones (oh, my!).

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So here’s our cast of characters, all in one place. Like every year, it's a good group.

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And here’s some of the details. I should also mention that, just as important as the visiting chefs is the work of Nicholas Schneller, the Four Seasons Bangkok’s Executive Chef; Stephane Calvet the 4S’ Pastry Chef;

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Satoshi Sawada from the Four Seasons’ Shintaro; and Danilo Aiassa from Biscotti. Needless to say my photo work stinks, as I missed getting Malcolm Omond the F&B Manager in any of these, and I’m intensely embarrassed that I missed getting a good shot of Patrizia. I’d blame Nokia, I’d blame the Rothschilds for leaving those wines about, but it is all my fault.

I also wish I'd been better about getting the names down in one place for all of the assisting chefs.

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My ineptitude aside, I really enjoy the staircase shot as it gets everyone out of the kitchens. This is where I get a chance to meet some of the people that have been working on things out of sight for decades. I know the front of the house, the main chefs, and the administration, but, having been a plongeur myself way back when, these are people I admire.

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And then everyone breaks up, some couples shots are taken, and its smiles all around. It’s the smiles after the cameras finish shooting that matter the most.

Next: The Gala

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The Gala

Sparkling Wines &

Senorio De Alange Pardina, Spain, 2004

Douglas Rodriguez, Roberto Donna, and Michael Ginor

Canapes

Patrizia Di Benedetto

Tuna Fillet in Pistachio Crust and Marsala Sauce

Sauvignon Blanc, Sunshine Bay, Marlborough, New Zealand 2005

Romain Fornell

The Norway Lobster

Chardonnay, Terrazas de los Andes Reserva, Argentina 2006

Steven Snow

Red Emperor with Mirin, Lime and Tamarind

Cabernet Sauvignon, Xanadu, Margaret River, Australia 2004

Susur Lee

Marinated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart

Mint, Coconut, and Confit Lemon Chutney

Amarone, Campo dei Gigli Tenuta, Sant’ Antonio, Italy 2000

Suzanne Tracht

Jar’s Signature Pot Roast

Caramelized Onion, Horseradish Cream

Cabernet Sauvignon Premier Cuvee, StG, Sonoma County, California

Escudo Rojo Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Chile 2003

Paul Wilson

Roasted Blackmore Matsuzaka Wagyu Sirloin and Braised Brisket

With Bordelaise Sauce, Celeriac, and Truffles

Bin 8 Cabernet/Shiraz, Penfolds, Australia 2004

Noa Sicilia IGT, Cusumano, Italy 2004

Katrina Kanetani

Deconstructed Mango Cheese Cake

Nicole Krasinski

Roasted Banana and Guanaja Chocolate Pudding Cake

Stephane Calvet

Valrhona Petits Fours

Jura Aged 10 years, Single Malt Whiskey, Scotland

In order to get from the main lobby of the Four Seasons to the Ballroom, it is necessary for one to walk through the most tasteful of outdoor passages, past lush vegetation and milling carp in the waters about youl. This tasteful outdoor passage is not airconditioned (there are limits) and I was in a tuxedo.

I try to use my weeks at the WGF to further my knowledge of the important things in life. One of these important things is knowing where the coldest part of the reception area in front of the ballroom is. I found my usual spot and settled on a glass of sparkling. A little sweet. Some of my friends were about, working the hall and catching up, but I held firm.

Then somebody wanted to take pictures.

Outside we go, looking for a posing spot. Then back inside. Then we take the pictures.

I’d been doing fairly well up to then.

But once in the ballroom, with the 220 or so of us dispersed to our tables, things weren’t a problem. We sat at table number 1, my party of visitors and I, with a nice family in seafood export and their friend, a veterninarian working with the government on food inspection issues.

They’d gone with a green motif this year, giving a fairly soothing, submarine feel to things. The room looked far different from the collection of naked chairs and boxes that I’d observed the day before when I was taken through for a tour of the setup.

The first wine was good, fresh, just as you’d expect from a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed this while Patrick Ghielmetti said a few words, reminding us that the purpose of all of this was in support of Princess Soamsawali’s charity Save A Child’s Life From Aids Project, run with the Thai Red Cross, which works to provide HIV drugs for pregnant mothers, in a bid to protect their children.

He also, quite properly, thanked his team. The Four Seasons has done very well, and Isidore Sharp, the founder and sitting with us tonight, must be quite proud of what he’s created.

Many of the courses were reprises of things done in the dinners. Same, same, but different.

In the case of the tuna, I was quite happy. Tonight the crust was more alive, and the Marsala sauce definitely had more flavour to it. I was content to the extent that I didn’t even get a good shot of this, the first dish.

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The lobster, served with the Argentinian, was quite different. The crust of mushroom tartare and “rice cream” was harder, crisper, and felt more precise than what we had had for dinner earlier.

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The Red Emperor was, again, excellent, and the twice cooked sushi rice underneath took rave reviews from the young Korean sitting next to me. The Xanadu with this wasn’t as chilled down as it had been at dinner, and you could feel it trying to muscle up on the wine, but it still worked.

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The next wine and the next course were my favourites. Susur Lee’s lamb, marinated in an Indian fashion and served with three dollops of sauce and a little tart of onions. Of the sauces, there was one with carrot, chili, and coconute that really caught my attention. There was also a paper thin slice of something dried, and we were trying to figure it out. I thought maybe lotus root, but it was pineapple.

The wine, the Amarone, was what I was looking for. Something I could nuzzle my nose into and go asleep. We’d railed a bit against “hot” wines earlier in the Fest, and this was a high-alcohol wine, but that does give you something that’ll reach in and yank your nose hairs like this one did.

Maybe that’s not the most elegant of analogies?.......

After the lamb, the beef. Or rather the first of the beefs.

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Suzanne’s pot roast pulled apart as you dug into it with your fork, and, having the horseradish cream made a world of difference to the flavours. I’m doing more creams with my braises when I get home.

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The Sonoma was a good Cab, and neither distracted nor submitted to the pot roast, but I felt a general preference for the Escudo, with the Syrah and the Carmenere in there.

Now, as you may have noted, a couple of courses ago we hit the Wall of Meat. Up to now, it had been a fairly easy climb, but now we hit the overhang. A plate of roasted Wagyu, braised brisket, a dollop of celeriac and truffles, and, just to take things way over the top, a bit of marrow.

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I noticed some of my dinner companions were starting to flag.

I called for a spoon for my marrow and went for it. I was so much in the midst of the marrow feast (“you gonna eat that?”) that I can’t really recall much about the Penfolds and Cusumano, other than that they were wet and red (which would be a great title for a band).

The auction went well, with all of the packages drawing some bidding. Gone are the days when I would find myself buying a package just because I wanted to get the bidding started (but it was a very good package). I did try to get some (the Mercedes again, the four days in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai), but people were in a good mood, and I know that Yoonhi’s patience will only be tested so many times before I find myself short a body part or two.

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We “lightened up” after this with Katrina’s deconstructed mango cheesecake. This was okay, but it’s hard to do justice to dishes like this after fighting our way over that precipice of protein.

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Likewise Nicole’s roasted banana and Valrhona Guanaja chocolate pudding was very good, but it was getting hard to focus. I had them pour me a triple of the Isle of Jura’s excellent 10 year old, and went out to work the room, catching up with some of my friends (one of whom I’ll hopefully meet up with in Seoul in October).

When I came back to the table I found it cleared, so I’d missed out on Stephane Calvet’s Petits Fours. A pity, as Stephane, the Four Seasons’ pastry chef, really does a very good job at these sorts of things.

What were the highlights? The Amarone. The lamb. The bright green-ness of the pistachios in the crust of the tuna. The barbarity of the marrow, and the clarity of the truffles and celeriac. The soft tang of the horseradish cream…….

I was feeling quite primed at this point, if “primed” means a state simlar to that of Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life. I parted for the lobby before I found myself in my usual state of being the last one out of the room. At the lobby I opted for the better part of valour, and just went up to the room and laid down.

That felt good.

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Friday – September 14, 2007

This was going to be a busy day.

It began at breakfast as I was catching up on notes over my usual ten cups of hightest coffee. I was joined by one of the couples traveling with me. She woke up this morning to her husband’s comments of “You smell like Cabernet”. Luckily, he immediately followed this with “That’s a good thing!”

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This will brand me as a heretic in this part of the world, but I am not a big fan of rice porridge for breakfast. Call it khao tom in Thai, or juk in Korean (yeah, my spelling is probably wrong) but it doesn’t thrill me. Sorry.

However, my Korean friend put together one of the prettiest bowls, using fresh sping onion and dried sardines. It was so cheerful looking it helped clear her headache. I had to at least take a picture.

I was losing this couple today. They would be heading for the airport at lunchtime for the flight back, happily fed (even if nursing a slight headache). Me, I was on the run for the whole day.

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Katrina Kanetani – Pier Restaurant – Sydeny (Australia that is, not the one in British Columbia)

First up in the day for those of us remaining was Katrina Kanetani’s class. With husband Karl along the two of them were ready for most any questions we might field, as Karl is the sous chef over at Este, while Katrina is from The Pier, both restaurants under the Doyle brothers, Peter and Greg. Este does red meats, and French/Australian dishes, while the Pier does some of the best seafood there is.

For the class, we’ll work through

Valrhona chocolate pave

and

Passion Fruit Madeleines

Also, as we must be fed, we’d be having

Canadian lobster claw

and

Slow cooked salmon

But both of these seafood dishes were coming from the Four Seasons’ side.

Before getting too stuck into it, we talked chocolate. Valrhona chocolate. I’ve yet to meet a dessert chef who doesn’t love Valrhona chocolate. It’s also important that every one of them has their own particular one that they prefer for nibbling. Katrina had sacks of them with her today; a 61% extra bitter; Caraibe at 66%; Guanaja at 70%; (the first of Valrhona’s Grand Cru chocolates) Venezualan Araguani at 72%; and Manjari from Madagascar at 64%. Valrhona (whom I talked more about last year, earlier in the thread) is the Grand Cru for chocolates, and take the business as seriously as their wine making neighbors.

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The little balls in the husk are a new Valrhona product – chocolate chilis. Not really a bite, but very, very edible.

Valrhona Chocolate Pave

For the pave (“brick” to describe the shape) we’ll use two chocolates; the Guanaja and the Araguani.

The pave will sit upon a chocolate genoise (sponge), which will have to be made and put to set in a mold first. For this we drop in 5 whole eggs into 1 cup of sugar in a bowl, and beat it over a bain marie, looking for it to be heated to about the halfway cooked stage, beating it to a pale white, fluffy stage (sort of like me). She’s a little nervous that she doesn’t have her thermometers, but says we’re looking for about 40 centigrade.

Cocoa and flour are sifted together three times to get a good, aired mix. This is done over parchment paper to make it easy to funnel back. And while this is going on, Karl’s got some butter melting to go into the genoise.

Then the mix goes into the blender, and it gets worked over at high speed with the whisk attachment for about ten minutes (about triple in volume). Then the clarified butter is folded in, the spatula working around then cutting through, around and cutting through. With your four arms (it’s good to do this with a friend) you sift the flour/cocoa into the bowl, and gradually mix. They sift in in three passes, working to avoid lumps. The halfway cooking has allowed the eggs to come to a point where they provide enough rigidity to carry the structure.

We’re missing a prepped cake tin (buttered and floured) so she improvises with a tray lined with parchment paper folded in. Then it’s into the oven at 200 for about 25 minutes. You can use the finger press to check for when it’s done, looking for it to pop back up and just be pulling away from the sides. And remember, like meat, that the residual heat after you remove it from the oven will continue to cook through.

For the pave we’ve already got the chopped up chocolates into the double broiler, melting down, taking care that we don’t get a bloom, when the cocoa butter comes out in white streaks. Tempering (heating, cooling, heating) will avoid this, working to strengthen the internal bonds in the material. The melt temperature here is about 45 centigrade, a little warmer than blood. Again, without her thermometers she’s a little nervous, but the easy, traditional check is for a pastry chef to smear a little of the mix on her lips. This’ll tell you if it’s hot enough yet. It also explains why pastry chefs are often found around the kitchen with chocolate all over their faces like six year olds…..wait a second, wasn’t she talking earlier about always nibbling on chocolates while at work? This could just be the uncovering of a massive pastry chef conspiracy!

Anyways, once it’s ready you remove it from the bath and let it set on the side.

We’re going for an Italian meringue here, with hot sugar cooking the egg whites (as opposed to a French meringue, where the egg white is beaten and then powdered sugar is sifted in). For this we’ve been working the sugar syrup up (lots of sugar -250gm – to 83ml of water). As the sugar melts, you need to be careful to work down any sugar that’s crystallizing on the sides of the pot. You can use a wet pastry brush, or if you have asbestos fingers like Katrina (I don’t feel much in my fingertips anymore) you can just wash it down with those (“don’t do this at home”). We want to get this to soft ball, rather than hardball. One check is in the bubbling rate, and the other check is by tossing a bit into a glass of cold water. It’ll form a ball, and you can check with your fingers (if you have feeling left in them after attempting the hand wash) if it’s the soft consistency, or if it’s gone hard.

While that was happening, eggs have been beaten – 5 yolks and 2 whole eggs – down to the ribbon stage. Do this over a bowl of hot water to get the right volume for the sabayon. When it’s ready, and the sugar is ready, introduce the sugar syrup into the working blender in a slow steady stream, and keep blending to cool. The stream needs to go down the edge of the bowl, and avoid hitting the top of the whisk, otherwise you’re not going to get the volume you need. And you need a good spatula to get all the sugar out of the bowl. Any sugar you leave behind is going to get you out of spec with the recipe, and pastry chefs live by their measures.

In another stainless steel bowl (note to self, buy more steel bowls), we prep the cream to nice, soft peaks (and no further). This should be room temperature, so we can match the temperatures to get consistency.

Now get a bigger steel bowl (note to self, write more notes to self) ready, and in a small steel bowl fold in the melted chocolate into half the sabayon mix, then combine the rest of the sabayon, working it with a good spatula to combine. When that’s combined (and your temperature should be dead on, now) take a new, clean spatula and fold in the cream.

The “new, clean spatula” part is something that Gordon Ramsay beat into her when she worked for him. This is the one tried and true way to avoid getting lumps (in your pave, if not from Chef Ramsay).

To assemble the cake we take a ring and punch through our pad of cake to get the base. Normally we’d use a brush to soak the sponge a little with a syrup of Kahlua (or whatever) and sugar – it is a sponge. Then, with our base in place, we add in the pave and smooth the top off with a warmed pallette knife. Put this puppy in the fridge, and let it set for a few hours or overnight.

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Plated, they have some very tart currants to put on the side (and more chocolate on top).

Then the conversation turns to Gordon Ramsay, and the benefits of kitchen discipline. The top chefs “may be crazy, but this is how you get true professionalism in the kitchen”. Karl has his say here, and you have to agree with him; coming to a restaurant, you expect consistency. You aren’t paying so you can worry about if the kitchen is having a good day or a bad day, you want the flavours and tastes to be the same regardless. That’s why, with a great restaurant, you shouldn’t worry if the headliner chef is there that night or not. He should have a team disciplined enough to follow his plan to the letter.

Of course, as Katrina says, this creates a lot of stress when working. But it has its rewards, “like eating chocolate cake every morning.”

And while this is going on, I should point out, they’ve had plates of chocolates going around the room, letting us try the differences in the percentages. I’d agree with her, the Manjari would propably be my favourite for a nibble.

Passionfruit Madeleines

Then we do some Madeleines – the famous French Petit Four, named as a parting gift for a lady.

Not too much to this. First you reduce some passionfruit in a small owl. You want to take about 30ml of juiced passion fruit (or any juice) down to 10ml to concentrate the flavour. This small an amount will get you the flavour you want without altering the proportions in the recipe. And let this cool.

Honey (1 tsp) and butter (80 gm) are melted together now. At this stage, other flavours can be introduced - kaffir lime leaf, a tsp of instant coffee with a couple of drops of water, etc. If you were going to swap out honey, then use Moscado sugar. Someone asked about molasses, but this would be too heavy a flavour. Let this cool.

Whisk together the eggs (2 whole) and sugar (85gm Caster) until you get a pale mix, then sieve in some almond meal (25gm), and flour (80 gm), and baking powder (1/2 tsp). Add the cooled butter/honey mix, and then the passion fruit reduction (also cooled). Let the batter sit around for a few hours (or overnight) before using it. Really, Madeleines are best right out of the oven, so you want to be ready way ahead of time if you’re doing this for friends.

So, when it’s getting to be time, stand a piping bag in a glass to be filled up, and then fill the little molds (buttered) about ¾ of the way. A good Madeleine, when it’s done, should have a characteristic bump on the top. Bake at 180 centigrade.

As we said, these are best straight out of the oven. Roll them in some icing sugar and serve them with coffee or tea while the middles are still warm.

We chat for a bit. Katrina and Karl are good at getting the audience out of their shells. She’ll have a new cookbook out soon, or rather The Pier will, and she’ll be doing the dessert recipes.

The Pier is doing great seafood, but much of it isn’t just the recipes, but the attention to how the fish are treated. Their doing a line catch, and an ikijimi kill, which sees a wire introduced to the spine of the fish, which “doesn’t quite kill it, but it does” putting it into a coma. This way the line catch doesn’t give you the thrashing damage of fish in nets, and the wire avoids the muscle stress of fish in distress. I wasn’t aware, but when you see a rainbow colour on your tuna, this is a sign of it having been under stress at the time of death. (I would be too).

Este, where Karl is working, is, as we said, more of a traditionally red meat place. They’ve got, as he says, the most beautiful room. The property came into the Doyle’s possession after an arson, and in rebuilding the place as a boutique hotel, they kept a lot of the burnt timber in the design of the restaurant.

I was also curious about Kartina’s take on working St. Lucia. This caught her out, as no one ever asks. Me, I’m just looking for a reason to visit. It sounds like the island is as beautiful as I’ve heard, but you really have to have a lot of recipes for bananas if you’re looking for indigenous recipes.

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The lobster and salmon were excellent (pointing out that the Four Seasons can do well on their own, too), with the salmon in particular having a great, soft flavour. Not a Pacific Spring, of course, but the technique made up in part for that.

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The madeleines took a mixed review. It’s a very simple thing, and goes well with chocolate, but I think are palates are jaded from heavy chocolates and don’t appreciate something as light as this.

Of course that means that we loved the pave. Nothing like a good old chocolate flavoured brick.

No wines with lunch, but that actually felt like a good thing, with the excesses of the last few days debauchery slowly taking their toll.

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How To Open A Bottle

The Italian Sommeliers Association, or rather, Associazione Italiana Sommelier, part of the Worldwide Sommelier Association, founded in 1965.

Things were off to a rocky start. Our teacher, Signor Roberto Bellini, from Florence, did not look happy. An unhappy Italian is never a good sign.

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It was an odd beginning. It felt like he wasn’t really certain of what he should be doing here. But there was a plan, and there was a powerpoint. If you have a plan nowadays, you have to have a powerpoint. In the first half, he covered the basics of a sommelier’s profession, his role in life, the universe, everything. What we were getting was a resume, as the proper course is a two week affair, lasting all day. Later I was to learn that his primary role in being in Bangkok was to conduct a sommelier’s course for several of the hotels, condensing the two weeks into a very intensive 5 days. This is something Thailand needs. While the country is (even with the abusive taxes) a sophisticated market for wines, the handling of the wines is often a travesty.

The odd thing is, that’s not really as big a concern for the people who are bringing in Signor Bellini. The big hotels can generally train their staff well (or excellently, in the case of my favourite spots) as their senior staff in F&B all have good backgrounds for this sort of thing.

No, it’s precisely the independent restaurants that need this. I watched in awe just last night (stepping out of the time line here) as a very earnest young lady attacked a bottle’s neck in much the manner you’d expect she’d take care of her cheating husband. That it was a red didn’t help.

I’m digressing again, aren’t I?

Signor Bellini apologized for his English, and relied in the beginning upon the services of a very gracious (and pretty – I’m still allowed to say such things) young lady who handled some of the translation. I’d suggest that she was Italian herself, but I usually get this wrong.

Anyways, back to the Associazione. They’re young to this business, as the “science” of wine tasting had already been established in 1950, so at this we were some 15 years late. (Now, if this was the south of Italy, that would be considered “on-time”).

Still, late or not, this is an important date for Italy. The formazione di deustatori professsionisti. The profession of a taster, something to aspire to for me.

The association has threee levels to the course. In the first, it’s a matter of “the role himself”. The grapes, the oenology, the tasting of wines.

The second level deals more with establishing a general background in the two major types of wine – Italian and “World” wines. (What! That covers everything I should think). To this end you’re sampling 3 different wines every session.

The third level, which I would be very interested in, covers the matter of food and wine matching – that critical ability of a good sommelier to establish which food would go well with which wine (I have priorities).

Of course, the most interesting part is the graduation, at which point you have one very loud party and drink heavily.

I do like the Italians. A lot.

People come to the Associazione for training for a number of reasons.

- A sommelier should be able to conduct wine tastings for the public, to spread the faith.

- A sommelier should also visit the wine districts and so improve both his tasting abilities, and to help in improving the knowledge of local wines.

- A sommelier should conduct cellar organization.

- A sommelier should participate in international events, and be prepared to speak at them.

- A sommelier should take part in international trade fairs, promoting the products of the grape.

- And a sommelier should be able to act as a journelist.

Signor Bellini was warming up at this point.

This is the description of a professional’s duties. Beyond this, the heart of a profession is to give yourself over to “the call”, and to undertake it body and soul. The aim is to cultivate yourself – to perfect the skill of how to be polite, elegant, and gracious. To know perfectly how to serve and treat a guest, how to bring them into the grand world of wine and technical knowledge.

We then talked about the Cellar, that wonderful place where the wine rests in tranquility, like Sleeping Beauty, or Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. There are no noises, no vibrations, and, sadly, no other food stuffs that might contaminate the flavours of the wine…..pity. There, in the darkness and the chill (11 to 15 centigrade, 65 to 75% humidity) the wine will rest…..maybe this is more like Dracula?

The whites take the lower bunk, and the reds the higher. This takes advantage of the temperature gradient that falls off sharply from the cool floors. And as the wines rest, they do so uniformly, with the labels up, so that should decanting be necessary, the position of the sediment is known.

What are the tools that the sommelier needs?

- cavatappi – opener

- pinzo – stopper (I’m not 100% sure on my spelling there from my notes)

- cestello – spittoon (I carry one with me, don’t you?)

- decanter – decanter (we had to work hard on the translation for that one)

- termometro – thermometer (okay, this wasn’t as tough as decanter)

For proper temperature the wines have different requirements.

A champagne, or sparkling would be served between 6 and 8 centigrade. The bucket should contain ½ ice and ½ water. And champagnes should rest in the bath for 40 minutes before serving.

A white or rose is slightly different. Here the bath should be 2/3 water and 1/3 ice. The temperature would be slightly warmer, at between 9 and 12 centigrade. And red should be 18 to 19 centigrade.

An issue with the reds of course, is that it’s often said to serve them at room temperature, but the issue is “which room”. That room in Bangkok will be quite different from the one in Lombardy.

To serve, the wine is first announced to the guest. First, of course, you wait for him to allow you to present. It is presented on his left side, and the name, classification, year, and name of producer are called out. The label is presented to the customer as you do this. With his assent, you may now open the wine.

To open, you should have all of your tools prepared on the service table, which is kept to the front of the customer’s table. Thereupon (ideally thereupon involving starched white linen) you should have ready 2 small plates, 1 knapkin, and 1 glass for tasting. Again, as you open, the label faces the customer. The foil is cut with a straight horizontal cut under the ring, quickly and with efficiency. Then the foil is removed, and placed upon the plate (“not in your pocket!”).

Then you clean the top of the bottle of cork with your napkin before proceeding. Then fold the napking perfectly, and place it to your right.

Now, enter the opener into the cork, and extract the cork ¾ of the way. Use the napking to grasp the cork and make the final removal. The hand of the sommelier should never touch the cork.

Then smell the cork on the contact zone, and upon the side. “When the cork smells of wine, the wine doesn’t smell of cork”. Then place the cork on the second plate.

Place a small amount in the tasting glass, smell the wine in the glass, and taste. If acceptable, the customer may check the cork.

If accepted, the sommelier will serve the wine first to the person who has ordered the wine. A small quantity is poured, and then the sommelier waits for the customer’s approval. Then the wine may be served.

A change has occurred in pouring etiquette. Before the body of the bottle was held during pouring. This has now been modified for practical purposes to allow the sommelier to grasp the butt, instead. We say practical, as this allows him to extend his reach upon the table and so avoid intruding too closely upon the customers.

This is the service for a young wine.

Should you have an older wine, then decanting is necessary to avoid the sediments. To this end you require:

- 2 napkins

- a holder for the wine that will keep it at an angle

- a candle

- a carafe

- and all of the other stuff.

I wondered what the name was for the apparatus that held the bottle, a “bread basket for wine” from the French was what we could come up with, but we hit a mental block on the Italian name. “If I remember the French name I’ll remember the Italian”.

Our purpose is to ensure that none of the sediment makes it into the decanter. To this end the angle of repose of the bottle should be 30 to 35 degrees.

First, pass some wine into the decanter and dispose, so that the decanter is of the wine. Then pour the rest of the wine into the decanter with the candle acting as a back light to allow you to catch the first hint of sediments. No screens are used, as these would harm the wine. (But in ports fine screens are used).

To tell if you need to decant, you must know the wine. There are no strict guidelines of how many years. The service itself is the same.

There are some guidelines on the shapes of the decanters, but this is not something held to with great consistency. There is one shape for the very aged, there is another for sherries, ports, and massalas, and then there is everything in between, depending upon your mood.

For a sparkling, remove the foil as you would in the normal service, use your left hand to grip the neck, and secure the cork with your thumb. Hold the bottle at a 35 degree angle and open. No theatrics, no shooting corks.

Now the sommelier can smell the cork without the napkin. You make a very rapid analysis (as nobody wants to wait for champagne), place the cork on the plate, and pour, with your left hand on the butt.

I asked about the shapes of the glasses used. These were quite detailed, but the reasoning really comes down to the profile you allow for oxygen to enter the wine.

We followed this with a tasting of four wines; a Valpaia Chianti Classico 2003; an Edizion Cinze 2006; the Amarone we’d had at the Gala dinner; and a Prosecco.

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We begin with the Prosecco as an example of the handling of a sparkling (interestingly enough, the Prosecco was the basis for the Bellini cocktail. I should email him and ask if there is any relationship). He opens this as described with a threatening sideways look at the waiter beside him, and it comes open with a hiss. Then he points out the elasticity in the cork. This wine carries a hint of white flowers, pear (which it must have, otherwise it is not good), and a floral, fruity feel. This is a wine you drink year by year. Now, the prosecco is a grape variety, not a DOC, and as such is a table wine.

The Chianti is all Sangiovese grapes, and gives us a good example of the wine, although this year was not a very good one, 2003 being one of the hottest years this century. In fact, we were lucky in that the first bottle opened was bad, and we had a chance to note what to look for in terms of a “corked” wine.

Effectively, it was dead. There was nothing in the nose, and the wine had a taste like prune juice.

Signor Bellini checks all of the wines with short, panicky sniffings of the corks, and loud, chomping tastings, which are removed to the spittoon.

The Edizione, a blend of primitivo, montevi, sangiovese, negronero, and malvasia is a table wine. As Signor Bellini says “a good spaghetti wine”. The grapes could come from just about anywhere. This one comes with tones of cassis, blackcherry, vanilla, cloves, and anise – created to be a soft wine that will be drank immediately.

The Amarone is an older wine, and is hotter, at 16% alcohol. In fact, it is one of the booziest wines in Italy. This probably explains some of the impact it had on us at the table. The wine is famous for dried fruits.

We slowly broke up from this, but I took the opportunity to ask about the Associazione’s new listing of restaurants. It appears that this is the first year of such a guide, and it has been put together from the recommendations of association members. They’ll look at this for next year, possibly changing the manner in which it is done, and will include it with the Italian Wine Guide.

And so, rather loudly, we broke up from class. A rough start, but it finished well.

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Russian Standards

I took a break from the Executive Club (I’ve got a lot of pictures from there I’ll need to post soon, but I’m falling behind) and cut down to Aqua in the courtyard to check out the Russians. While Russian Standard was not technically part of the WGF, they were running a promotion in the lobby. I wanted to drop by as I’d been told that there would be someone who could talk about the vodka with me.

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I like Russian Standard. When we were in Moscow last year, it was the vodka of choice for most of the restaurants we were at, and generally preferred by our (very large) drivers, who were loaned to us by our friends there to get us from A to B (or their Cyrrilic equivalents) It’s smooth, no back aromas (like the old school pencil erasers I pick up on some vodkas) and generally guaranteed to get you into a lot of trouble. My preference would still be Kauffmans’ but that’s not something that you can get ahold of that easily. Now, Russian Standard is one of their products, and is a good vodka. But now they’re pushing Imperia as the “top end premium” and I was interested to see what’s what.

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As I waited, I enjoyed a couple of martinis. Again, the quality of the vodka comes through. Malcolm, the F&B Manager for the Four Seasons was kind enough to roust me up one their press kits (with a mini of vodka inside). It has some of the details of the company, and some good material on vodka overall.

For instance, I was not aware until now that Dimitri Mendeleev, the man we all know as the founder of the periodic table of the elements, was the one who, in 1894, set the standards for the distillation of vodka.

And what are those standards?

- the mash has to be wheat based

- there have to be multiple distillations for purity

- to be blended with soft water (glacial)

- 40% ABV for “perfect balance” (and to keep your eyesight)

- Charcoal filtration for removal of any remaining impurities

-

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The brand (Russian Standard) was launched in 1998 In 2006 these guys opened up their own distillery in St. Petersburg. Importantly, they also secured the entire process chain for their vodka, so they’re the only Russian producer with control over the entire product.

So now I know. The name Russian Standard is not a strident cry of nationalism about the country’s colours (well, these guys are pretty strident) but rather an adherence to the old regulations on how to make vodka.

Russian Standard is distilled 4 times and run through adctivated charcoal 4 times. They run Imperia through 8 passes of distillation and then do two filters through charged quartz crystals and two filters through activated charcoal. Then they dilute from 94.6% to 40% with glacial water from Lake Ladoga.

They’ve had the Swiss run gas chromatography tests (these guys are thorough) and have some pretty impressive claims about the purity of their vodka against the other major brands.

There is some nationalism in their material, but it’s understandable. Roustam Tariko, the founder, had built himself up through the rough years by securing distribution networks for imported luxury products. In 1998, you couldn’t get a premium vodka in Russia. You could get a good $5 bottle that would give your liver a workout, but for good vodka you’d have to go for the imports. It just seemed wrong. It’d be like Scotland without single malts. Mexico without Tequila. The US without bourbon. England without gin. Korea without soju…..maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing (ouch, that’s going to get me in trouble).

I try a shot of the Imperia. It is very smooth, with almost no back tastes. A hint of wheat – maybe – but it’s hard to pick out (especially as this stuff has been distilled 8 times). I would think the tanks would boil dry on the 5th going for 94.5% In a martini it came across well, very clear, with nothing distracting from the hint of vermouth and the three olives. The press kit that I was given includes a 33 cl of Imperia, so I’ll try and do a taste test later while I can.

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Unfortunately, I run out of time. I’d like to talk with them directly, but there’s a dinner with Susur Lee that I don’t want to miss.

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September 15 – Lee Susur

Domaine Famille Ligneres, La Baronne Rose 2005

Marinated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart

Mint, Coconut, and Confit Lemon Chutney

Domaine Famille Ligneres, Aric 2002

Seared Foie Gras

With Duck Confit Roll and Spiced Nut, Berry Glazed and Black Currents

Varite La Muse 2003

Clear Gaspacho

With Tempura Phi Phi Lobster and Salted Duck Eggs

Domaine Famille Ligneres, Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004

Shrimps with Chiang Mai Sausage, Pomelo and Yuzu

Domaine Famille Ligneres, Le Signal 2003

Hot and Sour Consomme

Mountain Potato and Crab Meat

Domaine Famille Ligneres, Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004

Melted Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Banana and Jack Fruit

Coriander Infused Milk Chocolate Mousse

Rhubarb Jus

Petits Fours

Susur Lee had made an impact at the Gala with his lamb, and so I was looking forward to this dinner. And Shintaro is a good spot to do it in. Small, so the chefs aren’t too stretched in covering all the seatings. And so cozy enough that I can flit between the tables and check up on how my friends are enjoying the meal. Of course, that level of cozy means that someone my size is going to block the traffic like a chunk of cholesterol in an artery……

I had a sip of the rose that I’d caught on the fly coming back from the Russians in Aqua. I was running fashionably late, but this is Thailand. I could blame the traffic. I joined my table just as we received the bruschetta prepared and presented as mini-pizzas.

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They poured the Aric, named for Alaric, the great Visigoth who plundered Rome. The family Lignerese, from Languedoc-Roussillon. I wish that the Kendall-Jackson rep was here, as I’m uncertain of the connection now between them and Domain Famille Ligneres. Famille Lingeres has been a family owned operation, and are well regarded. The aric is a blend of Carignan, Mourvèdre and Syrah. A good nose, and a flavour of dark cherries.

Plus, the labeling is really cool. I like the runic lettering they use (darned if I know the proper name for that script).

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And the wine was a good match for the meat. We started heavy and went light. The lamb was up first, which is a great place for it, as it allowed us to study it in more detail, and to try and break down the trio of sauces that came with it. The coconut was the tough one for us. It was a chutney of carrot, chili, and coconut. I’ll talk a bit more about it in the cooking class tomorrow.

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And after the lamb we stayed heavy with the seared foie gras. A solid piece of duck, and set off by the berry and currants sauce. But I really liked the duck confi, the meat rolled up in a nice crepe.

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With that they’d poured the Varite La Muse 2003, an American (Sonoma) merlot (mainly). Parker thought well of the 2002, but did note that it needed to wait until 2008. This one, the 2003, he gave one point less to (93 points) but did say it was perfectly fine to drink now. I took his advice and drank it.

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The we moved back across the Atlantic (or the long way around the Pacific and Asia) to France and the Domaine Famille Ligneres Chateau de Launay Blanc 2004. A crisp Bordeaux Blanc, a blend of mainly Sauvignon Blanc, and some Semillon. It cleaned the light oil from the tempura of lobster quite well, and then the gazpacho made a nice hit of clearing flavours and crunch (the sachet was some lime).

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The shrimp was a delight. I’m honestly not a big fan of shrimp, but I love sausages. And sai eua, the Chiang Mai herbed sausages, are amongst my favourites (up there with Korean offal soondae).

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I restrained myself from sipping the finger bowl, and paid attention to the wine, again a Domaine Famille Lingeres, Le Signal 2003. This time a red, a Carignan , Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre blend. This falls under their estate wines, and was named for the horn on the old barreled delivery truck they used in the 20’s. This I could drink quite a lot of.

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And then we finished the meal with the soup, a hot and sour consommé. Light, refreshing, holding enough of the signature elements of a hot and sour, but none of the heaviness.

After that, dessert, which I sadly admit I paid only limited attention to as I was busy being the social butterfly and paying my respects at the tables.

The dinner went well. Of the chefs, I must say that Susur was the only one I saw going into the flavours of Thailand, beyond, of course, the normal frontliners of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.

Now, if someone would start doing things with the fermented pink sausage, nehm……

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I did manage to shoot the petit fours, so let me end on that.

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September 15 - The Secret Recipes of Susur Lee

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For some reason, today’s recipes came out without any notes. The bio, the strident pose, but no notes. One of my friends had brought his book, and we’d looked over the history in that. There are separate threads about Susur, so I won’t go into too much on his background. Susur is a Canadian, and like so many of us was born somewhere else. In his case Hong Kong, where he apprenticed at the Peninsula. Then he moved to Toronto in ’77, and opened Café Lotus in ’87, a 45 seat restaurant with 3 cooks. The book goes into some detail on how he put the place together, quite literally, designing and building a lot of it.

In the late 90’s he took up a position with Tung Lok, setting up Club Chinois in Singapore, which got him a solid fan club there. That fan club took a little while, as Tung Lok had brought him in to “consult” and put things straight, and as he says, when you try to “put straight” a bbq chef who’s been working in his trade for 30 years…well….it’s a good way to almost get killed. But by the second year things were going very well, and, like I say, he’s got a solid following there. When I was in Singapore for the WGS last year I just missed Susur, but his name was the talk of a lot of the folks I was dining with. That’s part of what had had me so primed for his meals.

In 2000 he was back in Toronto and opened Susur, and then opened Lee in 2004. He’s been a big part of the movement we saw in part of in Shanghai, where Chinese cuisine is being brought away from family style dining and driven more in a European serving style.

So, without ado, let’s fill in those blanks in the cooking notes.

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Susur is working today with Khun Piched up front, and his own sous chef, Dusty Gallagher, doing the behind-the-scenes work. Kendall Jackson is providing two wines, care of the California Wine Company. These are from the Collage line, a Semillon (55%) Chardonnay (45%), and a Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) Merlot (20%), which are following the Australian style in blending.

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For knives, he’s using a kasumi and an F.A. Porsche. I’m not certain the make on the third.

Marintated Rack of Lamb with Slow Cooked Onion Tart

Mint, Coconut and Confit Lemon Chutney

Up front, with his meez, he’s got a plate of pre-fried crispy herbs and flowers. Thailand excels in frying things, getting just the right consistency on their foods, and he wants to take advantage of that.

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Ingredients

- lamb 1 rack – 4 to 5 bones – 2 lb

- lemon grass – 2 stalks

- Kaffir lime – 2 leaves

- Garlic – 6 cloves

- Curry powder (Yellow) – 1 tbsp

- Veetable oil – 1 cup

- Coriander – ¼ cup

- Salt

- White pepper

- Turmeric

Curry marinade

- treat this like a pesto

- chop the garlic, lime leaf (rib removed), coriander, and add some salt. Use enough salt as you would in normally seasoning lamb

- brown the yellow curry powder in the oil for a quick cook to release the aromas.

- Remove the oil/curry from the heat, and pour into the “pesto” of curry ingredients

- Cool this mixture to room temperature, and then run it through the blender for a cook chop up and puree. You want to get this to a chunky stage.

- Once the marinade is ready, you can keep this in the fridge for a couple of days.

Lamb

- have the butcher trim down the ends of the bones a bit.

- Spoon rub the marinade onto the meat

- Let the meat sit in the marinade for a day.

o If you do this with steak, cut the marinade time down to a couple of hours

o If you want to try a chicken, it can extend for half a day to a day.

o Now, if you’re man enough to do a turkey, you want a 2 day marinade.

- Earlier in the day, pan fry the lamb on the fat side. Use sunflower oil or canola oil, something relatively neutral in flavour. If you went for a European approach, then go instead for olive oil.

- Foil the bones on the tips to avoid browning.

- If you have two racks, after frying, interleave the bones and tent them, allowing the fat to drain away.

- Let the meat rest

- When it’s time, pop the rack into an oven at 350 fahrenheit

Chutney (we only oovered the carrot coconut, the lemon confit and mint were pretty self-explanatory)

- ½ cup of coconut (meat from older, brown coconut)

- ½ cup of carrot – cooked and minced

- red chilis to taste

- coconut milk

- sugar and salt to balance

Cook in the coconut milk, then just puree this to a soft point but still some texture, and use the sugar to balance the chili, and the salt to balance the sugar.

You can either spoon this to shape, or use a squeeze bottle.

This sauce would go really well with satay, and I’ll try it when I’m home.

One note, don’t serve the dish on too hot a plate, as the heat of the plate will affect the colours and consistency of your sauces.

The onion tart is simply a matter of making onion “jam. Thin slice some juicy red onions, sprinkle some sugar, and simply pack them into a casserole with a good cover (foil). Then let them slow cook and caramelize over about 90 minutes on a low heat. When it’s time to serve, spoon them into some prepared tarts.

For the service, he would put the tart under the cut of lamb, then garnish with the crisped leaves and herbs. However, we forget the tart and had to bring the plate back for it, so you get what’s in the photo, instead.

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The next dish, the Shrimps with Chiang Mai Sausage, Pomelo and Yuzu is one of my favourites. I already did the sacrificial princess analogies in last night’s dinner, so I’ll put those aside. And just get on with it.

One of my favourite quotes from the WGF this year “If you don’t eat pork….that’s too bad”.

Sai eua (Chiang Mai sausage)

- 1 cup ground pork shoulder

- ¼ cup pork fat

- ½ tbsp egg white

- ½ tsp cornstarch

- 3 tsp nampla

- ground black pepper (fine grind)

- 1 kaffir lime leaf – fine dice, stem removed

- pinch of salt

- red chili to taste

- coriander

Here he’s trying to capture the flavour of the sai eau, looking more for a meat loaf, or pork meatball, rather than trying to find some entrails to stuff. Likewise, the skin of the sausage wouldn’t work with the texture of the shrimp.

Once the mix is all worked together, shape it into a loaf, wrap in saran wrap, and put it to the fridge to stay cool.

He rinses the shrimp well to remove the iodine, dipping his hand into a bowl of water each time as he deveins to aid in cleaning them out.

Then the shrimp take a quick toss in a little cornstarch. This is so they’ll hold the bundle of sai eua that we attach in the curl. The ratio of prawn to meat should be about 2:1. Put these flattened on a plate, Put that plate into a steamer. Steam to a halfway cooked stage, so that the frying can finish the job.

Then put it in the fridge. You want to get it cold so you can bread it.

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For the breading, use bread crumbs (there’s an act of genius). He prefers the panako, the Japanese bread crumbs. You could also use finely chopped pistachios.

He beats up the eggs, gives the shrimp a quick wash in it, and then rains the breading upon the shrimp. Once these are breaded and the tails are cleaned off, they go back in the fridge.

When it’s time, the shrimp are fried in either peanut oil (hot) or canola.

For the juice, we’ll need kaffir lime leaves, yuzu juice (or else a ¼ blend of tangerine and lime juice, which could substitute) and some Japanese soy sauce. Again, this should go back in the fridge to cool.

For a garnish, he’s using a Japanese mountain potato (yamaimo) coloured with some Chinese plum, then julienned and salted.

To plate, put some of the juice in the bottom, put in the pomelo wedge, and put the shrimp on top. Garnish to your heart’s delight.

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Dessert – Slow Cooked Apple Terrine with Vanilla Ice Cream

1 apple (don’t use Red Delicious – he uses a green Matsu apple here)

1 tsp butter

1 tsp water

2 tbsp sugar

This is basically a tarte tatin – an upside down slow cooked apple tart.

The apple gets cored, peeled and set aside.

We need to caramelize the sugar, which uses up the water and sugar in our recipe, and then we add the butter to that when it’s ready. This we leave in the pan to cool down.

We thin slice the apple (rings) and then pack it into the casserole. We could also use pineapples for this, but thin we’d make them thicker so we don’t lose all the juice. Likewise, we could add some cinnamon or cognac.

Once packed in, seal with foil and then poke some holes in the foil. Pop it into an overn at 250 degrees, and cook for 2 and a half hours. When done, pull it out and let it cool. This is best done the day before.

To serve, turn it upside down to remove, and then dress with the caramel sauce. Susur has done this as a “pagoda” but he recommends just having one big thing of this that everyone can dig into at the table.

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We talked a little bit while the food was coming (we were hungry). He spoke well of the products of Canada; of the foie gras that he’s getting from Quebec, and of his regular trips to the local markets.

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And there was talk of the staging of last night’s dinner. He’s seen too often that Western diners, arriving hungry to a meal will load up on bread and kill their appetites. To counter this, why not put your heaviest dishes up front, and then move to the smaller and lighter dishes as you progress? This is more the form of a Chinese banquet.

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Works for me.

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Drinking the boot (with apologies and homage to Tupac)

After Susur’s class it was time to be in the next session, the Italian Sommeliers Association’s wine tasting.

For this they took us on a tour of the “boot”, starting in the North, and ending in Sicily.

Signor Bellini was much happier today, having either warmed to us the day before, or having resigned himself to his fate. In either case, he was enjoying himself much more, and joy is contagious.

I won’t go into the details here (as I’m already over a week behind), but we started with a discussion of the country classified on the basis of North, Central, and South. Of reds in the Northwest, and whites in the Northeast. Of the throng of grapes in the centre, and of the semi-drying of grapes in the South. From there each of the regions was reviewed and their grape varieties and most significant wines were discussed.

I learned that there are a lot of different grapes in Italy.

After the tour, we tasted six wines.

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First we compared two whites. One from Umbria, a new, modern style Aurente Lungareotti 2005 Chardonnay, and the other the Angimbe Cusumano 2006. The Chardonnay was fine, 2005 being a good year for whites. Lots of fruit in the nose, oak barreled so you get that taste of vanilla. Long finish. Toasted. What you’d expect from a typical wine of this sort. In fact, it tates, as he says “like a Chardonnay from anywhere”. This could come from France or California, or Australia, or Chile.

The Cusumano, from the Inzolia grapes, has tropical fruites, almonds, a floral nose, and a little oak. “For me, the taste is like lemon grass of Thailand. Lemoncilla.” The colour is a rich, golden urine tone. This wine would work with shellfish, or chicken, and is generally drank in Italy with fried chicken.

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Next is a Leonartdo Chianti Reserva 2005, from the vineyards nearby daVinci’s house. 90% Sangiovese, and the rest Merlot and Syrah. Drink it with steak, and drink it within 3 years.

Balifico Castello 2003, a “Super Tuscan”. Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s the spice of oak barrels, cloves, peppers, and licquorice. Tannic. A good nose, and a long finish (with not bitterness).

A 1999 Barollo from Batasiolo is poured. I’m content to let it open up a bit in the glass. This one is still young, and really needs to get to 10 years. The tastes are of pepper, roses, black truffles, chocolate and coffee. Liquiorice and mint come at the finish. For this wine Signor Bellini recommends we kill something wild and cook it.

And we end on a Moscado from Piemonte. “We drink a lot of Moscado in Italy”. At only 5.5% this is a refreshing, aromatic little thing to toss back while arguing about everything under the sun.

For some odd reason, most people are very happy after a wine tasting, especially when they’re on their fifth pour of the Barollo (does anyone use those spittoons?). Signor Bellini advised us to applaud the wine, not himself, and we all parted in the best of spirits.

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The Last Dinner (of the WGF) with Roberto Donna - Galileo - Washington, DC

I was there.

The week had run its course, as had I.

I made one last attempt to track down a Russian in Aqua, but to no avail. I did find Benny there, though. I’d met him last year at Syn at the Nai Lert, where he was promoting South. Here he was running the bar staff, and working with them on cocktails. Now there’s a job! To be a cocktail promoter. Why can’t I do that? Just because he has training and talent? Okay, that’s a fair enough reason. Benny whipped me up a chocolate martini which I savoured while wondering how long my suit would last in the humidity.

The answer, of course, is “not long”. I headed back inside, and found myself flitting between friends in Shintaro and my dinner in Biscotti.

Thank heavens this suit isn’t going to be doing any more dinners for a few days.

Then they started making the opening speeches in Shintaro, so I beat a hasty retreat to Biscotti to join my table and the Gavi that they’d poured.

Gavi DOCG, Del Commune di Gavi, Beni di Basiolo, Piemonte 2006

Octopus Carpaccio Served with Green Sauce,

Black Olive Potato Salad and Rucula

Chardonnay, Aurente, Lungarotti, Umbria IGT, 2005

Chestnut Soup with Rabbit Sausage

Duck Liver, Duck Gizzard and Pancetta

Nero D’Avola & Syrah, Benuara, Cusumano, Sicilia IGT, 2005

Raviolini “Del Plin” of Three White Meat,

With Tartia Pudding and Fried Sage,

Topped with a Crunchy Parmesan Cheese.

Chianti Riserva DOCG, Cantine Leonardo daVinci, Toscana, 2004

Risotto with White Truffle

Fonduta Cheese Sauce Served with a Barolo Wine Caramel

Chiant Classico Riserva DOCG, Castello di Volpaia, Toscana, 2003

Roasted Veal Fillet Served with Porcini Mushrooms,

Polenta Concia, Fried Rosemary and Sweetbread Veal Jus

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Campo dei Gigli, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Veneto 2000

Edizione, Cinque Autoctoni, Faranese, Abruzzo, 2004

Janduja Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Croquant,

Served with a Caramel Ice Cream and Whipped Cream

Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Bosc dia Rei, Beni di Batasiolo, Piemonte, 2006

This seemed like a good way to see out the week. Roberto Donna - a fine extract of Piemonte - has an excellent reputation with Galileo in Washington, and his other venues (in America, it is always “franchise or die”), and the Dogliani family never disappoint with their wines.

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The first course, the octopus was good enough, tangy with the brine still in the octopus. But if I compare this with Talamimi’s octopus terrine of last year, I would go with the terrine.

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The chestnut soup was beautiful. Both to the eyes, with the rich browns and the rugged little tower of meat and bird offal rising from the morass, but also on the tongue. Enough flavour in the fowl, and more than enough of that thick rich cream we associate with chestnut flavours.

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The ravioli were serviceable enough, with the butter giving a fullness in the mouth, and the sage coming through in the nose.

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Risotto…..I love risotto. I am also not adverse to truffles. This is just plain good.

And what a great room this is. With that large cooking space in the open, I can get up – supposedly to stretch my legs – and watch the staff at work with Roberto and Danilo putting together the meal. The visual with the rattle and hum of a happy room is better than a good film.

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The veal disappointed a little. It was fine, a perfectly good cut of veal with very pleasant sauce of sweetbread jus but perhaps I just become jaded. Or perhaps I was getting full. Or perhaps I was paying too much attention to the Amarone, reliving it from the Gala, and comparing it to the bottle of Barola I’d knocked back at lunch? No, it couldn’t be that.

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And desertt? A solid finish. A nice finish of chocolate cream. I must admit that I paid no attention to the Moscato, and continued to enjoy the Amarone.

It was a good meal, a nice room, and pleasant company. I would not classify any one element as breathtaking - well, perhaps the risotto - but the overall effect was a very nice story.

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This is the end, beautiful friend, the end.....

Maybe I don't quite qualify for that refrain.

We tarried for some moments after dinner in the lobby, and compared the week. There are a number of things I want to try when I get home (the Szechuan peppercorn ice cream being right up there), and there still remains a lot to say about the wines. Both the Grange tasting, and a more comprehensive treatment of the Italians are needed.

But at this point in my non-linear life, all I really wanted to do was enjoy the Macalan, get to a birthday party up on soi 22 (where the police are supposedly cracking down on farang without passports), and start eating some Thai food.

But that's another story.

Cheers,

Peter

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PS - yeah, we should've popped a flash, but it might've scared the Macalan girls away. They were rather skittish about us.

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Okay, I agonized over this, about where to put the post, but I decided that I’d be too far off topic posting this in my Korea thread.

I was going to put this in Dessert! but after spending several minutes, during which time I found Dinner, Lunch, and Breakfast, I gave up, and decided to put it in here as a continuation. So sue me.

Back in Post 53 Paul Wilson had done quinces, talking about how you have to poach them for ages, and then suddenly they’ll go like a sponge, and taste divine. I was intrigued by this, and had to give it a try. And, in post 54 of the thread, Doddie had offered to get me some quinces!

So, in the recent trip to Korea Doddie gifted me with a box of fresh quinces from Icheon!

I'm a firm believer in serendipity.

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So, the weekend after we returned from Seoul, as that fine young Antipodean (albeit an Englishman originally) Paul had instructed, I prepared the poach, peeled the quinces, and pulsated the mousse (yeah, that’s a stretch).

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The quinces I poached for four hours, and then, yes, they did go all spongy. It was fun to observe, as those rock hard bodies went to a softness you’d not have expected (Yoonhi’s making rude comments about my physique, again).

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I then pulled the quinces off, let them cool, strained out the liquid, and set them aside in the fridge for the night.

I’d also prepared the chocolate chestnut mousse, and put that in the fridge in a plastic tub, as instructed. This was to give it more of an ice cream texture.

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The next day it was a simple matter of finding some victims, and then putting the quinces, the sauce, and the mousse together for a quick dessert.

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Thank you, Doddie! (And Billy!)

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Peter,

:blink: Send me some of those poached quinces. Thanks so much for documenting everything on this topic. :wub: Between this and the korean trip the food is driving me crazy. Thanks for the recipes too! :smile:

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It's cominggggggggggggg! :biggrin:

WGF IX at the Four Seasons Bangkok.

September 22 - 28

I know where I'm going to be.

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It's cominggggggggggggg!  :biggrin:

WGF IX at the Four Seasons Bangkok.

September 22 - 28

I know where I'm going to be.

Any other eGulleteers going to make it? I can make some of the events, and I'd love to maximize familiar faces!

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It's cominggggggggggggg!   :biggrin:

WGF IX at the Four Seasons Bangkok.

September 22 - 28

I know where I'm going to be.

Any other eGulleteers going to make it? I can make some of the events, and I'd love to maximize familiar faces!

Yes, the schedule is out indeed. I'm a glutton, as you're aware, so I was going to do everything. But let me scribble some thoughts ahead of writing anything more formal in the thread. I'm doing this in the order I'll do the dinners:

1.

Siggi Hall - this looks interesting. Hall has a good rep, and I know nothing about Icelandic/Scandinavian cuisine other than that herring are generally involved (but that's only based upon one trip to Denmark in the 80's). What has me excited, though, is that Sileni from Hawkes Bay in NZ is doing the wine. They've been out before, and I like what they do.

Given that it's an alien cuisine for me, this is a cooking class I'm interested in.

2.

Michael Ginor - the foie gras dinner is always a highlight for me, so neither Yoonhi or I would miss this.

Plus, we might get to see the PETA girls if they're on tour!

3.

Glenn Ballis - The Australians are always sure to put on a good show, so his cooking class may be the best of the lot. Plus, he's coming from Moscow. There'd been talk of a Russian sourced chef last year, but that fell through. Ballis could be very good, or could just be a mish mash of fusion. It depends on how much caviar he brings with him. His cooking class may be the best of them.

4.

Celina Tio - I've read very good things about her. But I'm unsure. A lot of what is written defines her technical brilliance, and her discipline. But she'll be working here with a foreign staff, in a strange kitchen. And I don't read that much about what she cooks. From a technical standpoint I'm interested in both her dinner and her class. I'm trying to talk Yoonhi into letting me take Serena to this class, as I think Celina would be a good role model for the Girl to see, but Yoonhi thinks Serena will be bored. Mixed feelings on this.

5.

The Gala - this is always fun, but it's the most expensive. At a good WGF the chefs all work well together and the wines are outstanding. At a troubled WGF, they fight with each other and duplicate dishes, and the wines are......well....not memorable. If it's good, it's very good. If it's not good, my Scottish blood bridles at the value for money aspect.

6.

Jeffrey Jakes - this is the one I'm probably the least enthusiastic about. I can't really say why, but there's nothing about the bio that thrills me. Like Manzke a couple of years back, it'll probably be a good meal, but I'm having difficulty seeing what will make it work in advance. Likewise, the cooking class may or may not work out that well.

7.

Maurizio Quaranta - This could be the top dinner. Plus, I like to end in Biscotti. The room has an excellent buzz when they've got a top Italian chef in the place. I've never felt bad about the Italians who come, particularly the Piedmontese. And, they're a lot of fun in the cooking class.

I should go back and check over the other wines, as well.

26 days to go.

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