Showing posts from September, 2009

Holier than Thou? Going Local at Whole Foods

It's now been more than two weeks since New Times critic Lee Klein called out local chefs for being part of an "unholy alliance" due to their participation in a series of promotional events at Whole Foods, on account of the chain's supposed lack of support for local farmers. I detected a faint whiff of hypocrisy, in light of said critic's touting of New Times' "Iron Fork" event just hours later, an event sponsored by none other than Whole Foods and attended by some of those very same chefs. Then Professor Klein felt obligated to give me an education on hypocrisy. I'm not a very good student, but we each made our feelings known and hugged it out.

In the meantime, what seems to have been forgotten along the way was the promise to deliver on those accusations about Whole Foods in the first place. Back on September 14 we were assured "more specifics on this in upcoming posts" and as part of my lesson plan on September 16, there was more rea…

The Work of the Cursing Class - or something like that

A couple interesting events and promos to pass along:

"Blue Hour" and "Green Hour" at Au Pied de Cochon

Perhaps to compensate for recent news that they will not be staying open 24 hours a day, Au Pied de Cochon on South Beach is now pitching its "Blue Hour" happy hour(s) from 4pm-7pm, featuring bar bites priced from $2.25 - $9.50, $5 cocktails, $6 wine by the glass, and $4 for that quintessentially French staple, Pabst Blue Ribbon; and if you're in the biz, the late night "Green Hour" from midnight to 2am Thursday-Saturday with $3 cocktails, PBR and Kronenbourg, and $5 wine for those in the service and hospitality industry.

"About Last Night" at Pacific Time
For those possibly seeking a more intimate type of companionship, Pacific Time in the Design District is kicking off "About Last Night," a mingle with singles type thing starting 8pm on Tuesday, September 29. There will be an open bar for the first hour, then reduced pric…

Bistro Laurent - Paso Robles

Photo via Bistro LaurentThe last leg of our California trip brought us to Paso Robles. When I had made inquiry through friends of friends for recommendations, a few names kept coming up, and Bistro Laurent was one of them. I can now understand why. Every wine region seems to have a place like this (or ought to) - a comfortable restaurant where you can find simple, well-prepared food that compliments the local wines. Bistro Laurent clearly fits that description.

I knew that Paso Robles was a wine-producing area that has gotten some attention particularly for Rhone varietals and zinfandels, and was familiar with at least a couple producers (Tablas Creek and Linne Calodo, the latter of which I've been a mailing list customer of). But frankly, I hadn't quite realized how extensive Paso Robles' wine biz had become. There are now over 180 wineries in Paso Robles with 26,000 acres of vineyards, and the publicists claim it is the fastest growing wine region in California. Happily, …

Manresa - Los Gatos

We did Manresa all wrong. I now know that Los Gatos is a good hour and a half away from Carmel, which was our home base the evening of our Manresa reservation. I now know that it was a major mistake to attempt a heady dining experience with the whole family after a day of tidepooling and hiking in Point Lobos Park and a loooong drive back up the coast. But when I planned our California trip (in fairness to myself, on very short notice), this was one of the destinations I didn't want to miss, and so - against my better judgment, or at least that of certain other members of the family - we made the trek to Manresa. With this preview, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that the meal was not a perfect success.

Once we got there, Los Gatos turned out to be a charming little town, and the restaurant, on a side street off the main drag in what looks to be a converted house, is modestly unassuming for a place that has garnered such a lofty reputation. Inside, the exposed wood beam c…

Unholy Alliance? Holy Hypocrisy!

It is enough to make the head reel. Let me make sure I've got this straight:

When Chefs Club Miami (a group of local chefs and industry folks who have been getting together for the past few years) does an event partnering with Whole Foods, it is an "unholy alliance," and participants like chefs Sean Brasel of Meat Market, Giancarla Bodoni of Escopazzo, and Cindy Hutson of Ortanique get snotty quotation-marked references to the "area's top chefs" and "culinary innovators," snide comments about them "swapping recipes for molten chocolate cakes and such," and grief for "teaming with a national market" that Lee Klein, restaurant critic for Miami New Times, says doesn't support local farmers.

When New Times does an "Iron Fork" competition - sponsored by ... no, really ... Whole Foods, it's worthy of touting, and all of a sudden, participants like .. no, it couldn't be ... Chefs Sean Brasel, Giancarla Bodoni, and …

Water Under the Bridge?

Some more insights on the "Brooklyn water bagel" issue from Bob Del Grosso, a/k/a the Hunger Artist, former instructor of Advanced Culinary Principles at the Culinary Institute of America, in "Bagels for Suckers":

For the record. I believe that if NY bagels are good (and not all of them are, there are plenty of crappy bagels made in NYC) their quality is almost entirely the result of what is left out (sugar, dough conditioners etc) rather than what is put in, flour quality and superior mixing, proofing, boiling and baking technique.And his opinion is backed by some empirical observation:

When I was teaching Advanced Culinary Principles (a food science class) at CIA some of my students made bagels with water from Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. A blind tasting turned up no significant differences among them. I wonder if any of these new, franchise-aspiring bagelmongers would be willing to put their bagels up to the same taste test.

(Not) Citronelle - Carmel

At first, I didn't have very high hopes for our first dinner in Carmel. Given that the meal was going to be sandwiched in between visits to Incanto on the front end and Manresa on the back end, I was OK with low expectations. Then just a few days before we arrived, I got an email from the Carmel Valley Ranch where we were staying, advising that the resort had "partnered with acclaimed French Chef Michel Richard for our new signature restaurant -- Citronelle by Michel Richard." Well - that changed things. I've never eaten at Chef Richard's flagship restaurant in Washington DC[*] but I certainly knew of his reputation as a phenomenally talented, creative and whimsical chef. Maybe this dinner wouldn't be a letdown after all.

But from the moment we set foot in the restaurant, something seemed amiss. First off, there was no signage whatsoever identifying the place as Citronelle - not in the resort, not in the entrance to the restaurant, not on the menu. Then out ca…

The Bagel Wars Are On

Hot on the heels of the "Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.," here's another entrant into the bagel brouhaha: Brooklyn Bagels, coming - sooner or later, like so many other places announce - to Midtown Miami. The press release says the owner, Ashraf Sahaltout, has "roots in Brooklyn for generations. " I could not, despite inquiry, get any info as to what NY delis he's been associated with.

Press release also said that "a key ingredient he proudly utilizes is the pure city water shipped directly from New York." OK, bakers: how much water would you need to ship down from New York to really do that?

Meanwhile, the author of "The Bagel: A Surprising History of a Modest Bread" chimes in on the whole issue of whether it's really about the water:

As to whether New York City water is the all-important ingredient — the bread scientists I consulted were not convinced.A good bagel place would certainly be a valuable addition to the midtown Miami area. Maybe …

Incanto - San Francisco

They smelled good. They were topped with bacon. When I asked if he wanted to know what he was trying before he took a bite, he declined. And that's how my 11-year old son came to eat lamb balls at Incanto.

image via @offalchrisBefore you accuse me of some form of child abuse, please keep in mind that he should well have known better. I have long been a fan of the so-called "fifth quarter," or offal. Tongues, cheeks, ears, feet, livers, sweetbreads, tripe, hearts, intestines, marrow, gizzards. They're all my friends. These are things I eat not on a dare, but because they have the capacity for deliciousness. They offer depth of flavor you often won't discover in the "prime cuts" (though in fact many are actually quite mild), and unusual, sometimes luxurious textures. And it is often the measure of a chef's talent what they're able to do with the misnamed "nasty bits." Anyone can take a prime New York strip and make it taste good. It takes…

Zuni Cafe - San Francisco

I wanted to love Zuni Cafe. I really did. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is one of my all-time favorites, not merely a compendium of recipes but a passionate and wonderfully written guide to how to cook with literally all five of your senses. It's worth the price just for Chef Judy Rodgers' roast chicken recipe alone, even if it is widely available on the internet.[1] I actually don't often do recipes directly from the book, but there are any number of tips I've picked up from reading, and re-reading, that have been invaluable. And besides, notwithstanding my interest in more contemporary techniques, I usually enjoy the "California school" of ingredient-driven cooking of which Zuni is a paragon.

This was my second visit to Zuni, actually. The first was a couple years ago, when Little Miss F and I (having come out to SF a day before the rest of the family) went and ordered the legendary roast chicken. We had a perfectly enjoyable meal. Was it the best roast chicken I…