Saturday, June 2, 2012

NYC, where walking across the street is considered parkour...

Typical New Yorker.  
Have you ever been driving downtown and realized you just hate that no good t-shirt you're wearing?  Well, in Manhattan, stop the car in the middle of a green-lit intersection, remove ugly shirt, showoff your rolls/fur, turn up music, ignore the horns, look for - and eventually find wrinkled worn out golf-tee, put on, then drive through red-lit intersection. 

I went to NYC to be a stagiaire at three of North America’s top restaurants. To be sure, I will blog on those spots individually, but I also went to a lot of places where I was there just as a foodie.   

I socially media’ed (new word) the crap out of my trip at the time, but did not do the city adequate justice.  To be brief, NYC is culinary Viagra to facilitate ones addiction to food porn.   

Inside the kitchens are a bunch of kids, most straight out of very expensive culinary schools. They’re YOUNG, fresh, and not-as-yet feeling the long-term effects of the 4 cans of Red Bull they call lunch/dinner.  They are motivated, passionate and have a flare for tattoos everywhere. Most are fantastically nice.  The odd guy is a douche who is always skinnier than me.

Outside the kitchen, NYC is the top pinnacle gastronomic destination probably in the history of mankind.  Think of it; at what other time and place will you source out, find, and have such a wide array of great quality food in such close proximity? I hit as many places I could remember in my fantasies (Babbo, Momofuku Noodle Bar, The Spotted Pig) and was rarely disappointed (David Burke). 

Okay, I shut up now and let pictures do the talking.

Quick link, NYC plans to ban 16.oz Sugar Waters!


 I love everything Mario does.  This was a place I actually waited outside at 11:30am on a rainy Thursday just to be sure I could get in. (Only one there...)

Antipasti - Asparagus "Milanese" with a Duck Egg ($15) was three poached asparagus with a sunny-side duck egg on top and shaved parm.  $15 for that eh... 

Primi - Pappardelle Bolognese ($20)  When in Rome... This was actually perfect.  So happy.

Dolci E Formaggi - Olive Oil and Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil Gelato ($13) was refreshing and texturally beautiful.  

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Just walked in at 2:30 and sat at the bar with no problem.

Yuzu Soju Slushy ($5) I could seriously develop an addictive personality with this one.

Buns - Pork, hoisin, scallion, cucumber ($10)  Amongst cooks, these are famous.  You go to NYC and they will ask if you have tried them.  I have.  They are meth-addictingly wicked.

Side - Soya Egg, crispy shallot, chive ($2)  Momofuku has menu items that are $2. 

I managed to check out a taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart while in town.  Fun times, but more relevant to this blog, a bunch of lesbians picked me up while in line and brought me to a bar for pre-show drinking where they specialize in $4 glasses of wine and Tater Tots...
Here is Tater Tots, Franks Redhot, and Blue Cheese.  

The Spotted Pig
What a cool spot.  At 4:00pm it was still bustling. It's hipster/feminine attitude throughout, but what caught my attention most was the cooks wearing chef jackets and shorts... 

 Roll Mops ($8) Pickled Herring, Creme Fraiche

    Sal and Carmine
Routinely acknowledged as one of the top spots of a slice in NY, Sal and Carmine is located on Broadway towards the Bronx.  It is worth the trip. I think it's just Sal now, but they have been open since 1959 and everything (from the decor, to the recipes) are apparently the same.  Sal does not talk much.  Just order the slice and put $4 down.  Perfect ratio of cheese to sauce, the right toothiness, and a good amount of grease.  Go.


Check it out. A wide variety of fresh mushrooms.  I have never seen this before.  Eataly is both a grocery and casual dining spot.  It is the kind of spot you can sip moscato and have a plate of parma while eye-balling what fresh  Ricotta Gnudi you'll take home.  If the rent wasn't $3000 comparable to here... 
At least porter can fly you there for $200. 


Beer Garden on a rooftop above Eataly, this is a bad place to be right before doing a stagiaire at one of the most respected restaurants in the world.  REGARDLESS I soldiered on.  The food was a perfect 10/10.

Biroldo - ($21) Toscana inspired blood sausage served with cannellini beans and pickled turnips. Best blood sausage I have ever had.
Overrated.  ($18-F*** Off!) You know what kicks this in the teeth easily?  

Serendipity 3

This place is where you bring a hot girl to.  This is not the place you go when you are male, alone, and rely on your blackberry as a crutch companion.  I was out of sorts with this one, but it was a necessary trip.  This place is known for its $1000 Golden Opulence Sundae, which I did not order as I have a mortgage and brain.  I did sip a chocolate cappuccino which was tasty but awkward as I faced three girls who I could tell where trying to figure out if I were a danger to them.  The place is charming enough and the next time I am around, I will be happy to bring my wife.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

16oz. Ribeye, just one more thing the Proctologist will find out about later on...

 I have been meaning to casually mention/sneak into the convo/flat out brag that I ended up with a thermal circulator at home.  I did not pay for it. It was a gift that proves if you drool over something hard enough, Julia Child will somehow make it happen.  She is the spiritual transglutaminase in my life. Molecular enthusiasts would find that clever.

Critics of the sous-vide technique have called it “dead-cooking”.  That is true.  This is actually what makes it so great with some products. The less certain foods are handled, the better the integrity and final outcome can be. 

I recently bought 4 AA grade 16 oz. ribeyes from Galen Weston Jr.  He charged me $6.06 lbs.  That is an awesome loss leader.  I took them home and came to realize;
 a) 16oz. steaks are ridiculously big enough to emotionally abuse even the toughest of colons so better clear the schedule… and
 b) AA Grade Beef is not comparable to Prime/Wagyu/Kobe, which you get use to working in the industry... Evidently, my palate was an only child.

So sous-vide it is.

Marinade with red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, shallot, toasted mustard seeds, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and vacuum seal each steak individually.  Place them in the fridge with all the care, emotions, and excitement of holding a new child.

 No rush here, let it graze on its juices for at least 24 hours. 

To sous-vide, set the temp. for 110f.  I love rare.  In fact, someday there will be a tombstone with Jerek “Kept it Rare” Bowman somewhere.  Anywho, the steaks are placed for 2.5 hours* in the bath. 
*longer if terms like "danger zone" appeal to you...

After said time, you get to remove them.  Notice the tenderness?  ISN’T IT STUPID??  HA!  At this point you need a charcoal bbq that can hit 600 degrees.  Get that going.

 Okay, remove the steaks from the baggies and empty the liquid flavour of holy greatness into a sauce pot on low heat. Check the seasoning.  Should be substantial. You are eating 16 ounces of red meat- might as well quadruple the sodium quota here. 

Season the steaks.  Using the bbq on full-metal blast, scorch the surface areas as fast as possible. The idea is to caramelize the exterior while retaining the fantastic tenderness in the inside.  So, like, 1 minute on each side (and keep the lid down) only.  Remove the steaks from the grill, let rest for 3 minutes, pour the reserved juice over them and serve. As a side I usually go with a spinach risotto because it’s starchy, fatty, cheesy, helps absorb strong booze and spinach is good for you. 

I must thank Colin Van Sickle for moving to Baku and not wanting the hassle of owning a thermal circulator anymore.  I still am in shock.

The link is a video of Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Steak.  Damn. He is good.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kaji Review (Japanesse food surprisingly not in anime!)

(plus sushi junkie shields)

Kuzu cake stuffed w/tomato, plum sauce
(Loved this dish, very concentrated flavours, the plum doing very well paired with tomato.)

Deep dried fish cake
& bamboo shoot dressed w/ bonito flake
(I was not the only non-Japanese Chef at the table to assume you could eat the bamboo sleeve.)

Tuna fat, soya sauce, mountain potato, egg yolk
(Uh, yeah, my new favorite four ingredients)

(Ocean Trout, Lobster, Octopus, Spanish Mackerel - OUTSTANDING)

Conch clam & mango sunomono
(Not convinced Kaji himself handled this... please don't hate me...9 out of 10 still gets the job done...)

Butter squash cake stuffed w/ chicken
(Loved the dashi flavour in the puree)

Grilled Mutsu fish-Saikyo style-
(By now we had had enough sake to warm up to our serious but friendly server and told her what the garnish on this plate is called in English.)

Pressed Eel
(The rice. I am ruined forever now. I have tasted why it's taken so seriously. The texture. The temperature. The flavours. My heart. I can only imagine what this guy thinks of Philadelphia rolls.)

(Crazy awesome dashi, ginger, bonito broth)

Fluke Sushi

Ocean Trout, Salmon Caviar Sushi
(fyi, the caviar was as fresh as the fish.)

Tuna Threesome
(Flesh, Belly, Fat)

Go to Kaji.

If I actually post a review, it's because the place has influenced a flood of original ideas I have not seen before, creating culinary waves like a tsu... how Kaji very much impressed me this past week.

When you hear of a place where ridiculously talented chefs like Toronto's Scott Woods stagiaire under to learn, go. It's a safe bet their $120 10-course table d'hote menu will turn into a lot of excitement in your pants.

This is why I went to Kaji with a half dozen cooks.
Named after its owner, the locale for the restaurant is so cool it hasn't even been gentrified yet.

There is no a la carte menu, only the choice of two tasting menus updated daily to suit what Kaji brings in. Oh, his ingredients? All from Japan. His fish? Flown in from Tokyo Bay the same day he performs culinary surgery on them. Nothing is used tomorrow.

His soya? From scratch. It's a miracle in a room full of agnostics... or something else that describes mind blowing... It's slightly thicker than what you are using, has about half the salt content (STAY WITH ME), and carries an almost fruity taste. It seriously caused all six adult professional Chefs I was with to first slurp then pretty much make out with the sauce holders when we ran out of sashimi to dip it in.

Sake may have had some influence...

Beneith the photos are Kaji's precise name descriptions, anything in brackets is me. First link is for Kaji's place, and I have attached incredible apres high-end sushi meal music that you must blare in a car filled with drunken chefs.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Colborne Lane; A Stagiaire's Experience

beef short rib (b), tea smoked squab (f)

working beet snow with nitro

beet salad

needed to use quick shutter speed so it did not look like i was standing there taking photos

black truffle + olive oil

height of service,
note how (colorful adjective) clean the line is

pineapple minus 197C

lamb loin

blow-torched cinnamon


an organized fraction of what is in their dry goods area


I will start by summing up the whole experience staging at Colborne Lane.

I am not about to divulge how it is the brilliant, crass cooks do their thing, as you should be the one to take initiative and stagiaire there if you're curious. Before heading in, a Chef quipped to me that there are so many components on the plate because there are "like 40 cooks working the line".

No, 5 actually.

These guys are rockstar cooks. Short shirts, tat-sleeves on most, a vocabulary richly basted in colorful metaphors - largely pertaining to fellow cooks on their most immediate cooking skills.

All that aside, they are among the most professional teams I have worked with. One is in the juice, then all our in the juice.

Many thanks to Colborne Lane's Chef de Cuisine Andrew Wilson for letting me show up and try to be of use to what turned to be their menu rollover weekend. Based on what I have seen in the inside, him and his team are what makes the reputation of Colborne Lane utterly justifiable.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thank God someone invented Italians so we could have cappuccinos in the morning...

The recipe is good for two portions.
One if you are North American.

Stuff you’ll need;
Espresso Pot, Hand Blender, Small & Tall Pot, Spoon, Favorite “Best Daddy” Mug, ½ of your conscientiousness.
Fresh 100% Arabica Espresso Coffee Beans you got from the stubble-faced coffee hipster at Longos.
Ideally, you are smart enough to buy only as much as you need to last the week, otherwise your stupid FOH friends will say that your beans are old, and you’re getting old, and that’s not gray hair you are getting, it’s more like white and you snore too loudly…etc.
Did you know consuming excessive caffeine can cause funny heart feelings? Regardless, grind up miracle beans, measure out 2tbs for the espresso pot.

Water in this case, 1.5 Cups. Put the element on high and place your espresso pot over it.
1 Cup (Plus a tad extra for whatever divinity you follow) of Skim Milk, 1 tbs. Vanilla, put together in the small & tall pot. Put the pot on the stove on high heat.
The milk will come to a light steep before the coffee is finished. Remove the milk from the heat before it begins to boil. If it comes even close to raising, it will not froth very well and you as a person will be irrelevant. I hear Tibetan monasteries don’t judge those lacking in frothing ability.
Slight vapors of evaporation coming from the pot indicate when it’s best to remove the milk. So just stand there and do nothing but glare at the pot in the cold stale air of stupid morning and wait for vapor. Be one with the pot. I froth, therefore I am.

Frothing is both an art and science.
Put the pot at a 45 degree angle (See, science). Make sure the hand blender is touching the bottom end of the pot but half sticking out of the milk. Sound complicated? Perhaps look at the above picture (Art!). I froth for a solid 35 seconds because it’s enough to develop a base of smaller bubbles, but without over doing it.
Don’t over do it. Don’t under do it.
Anyone waiting for you to finish the cappuccinos at this point quietly hates you because of how long and noisy it is to make a great froth. Well they can shut up their impatient junkie faces.
Ces’t ton froth.

Gently place froth aside. Take your mugs and add mood-setting sugar. Tilt the froth pot into the mugs and use a spoon to block the froth from going in. Let the failed froth milk (The Maple Leafs of Froth) pour into the sugar mugs.

Stir the milk and sugar together. Between you, me, creepers, and the internet, this is also where I add cinnamon, as I typically hate hearing the sizzling sound of a dying froth when people (Leaf Fans) garnish it.

Does it sound like it’s starting to bubble now? Can you hear yourself saying “like WOW, that coffee sounds like its really perculating!”? TTHHHAAATTSSS NOT PERCULATING!!!! This is not your parents Maxwell Coffee Machine. Espresso Pots are silent until they finish and THEN THEY START BEING NOISY LITTLE ITALIAN COFFEE POTS. So, when you hear the noise, remove it from the heat as soon as possible.
Now pour the coffee. It’s okay to smile a little.

Tilt the froth pot and gently talk the froth into merging with the coffee. Be gentle, there is no rush here. All the hard parts of waking up are in the past now. That’s it. Congrats, you are all done. 668 words to describe what is usually a 4 minute process.

The links I provide below are both relevant to this cappuccino blog. First is a 9 step guide line to make a general batch of coffee which I found surprisingly great coming from Yahoo! Canada. This is followed by a YouTube clip of some atmosphere enhancing contemporary jazz I love listening too while in the kitchen.